Hack Graduate Award recipients explore water issues from groundwater cleanup to carbon-capturing crystals

Monday, Jun 8, 2020
by Morgan Kelly, for the Princeton Environmental Institute

The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has selected seven Princeton University graduate students as 2020 recipients of the Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Awards for Water and the Environment. The awardees include Joanna Schneider, a third-year Ph.D. student in chemical and biological engineering; as well as Francisco Carrillo, Eunah Han, Julie Kim, Aleksander Musiał, Daniel Ruth and Kewei Zhao, from across engineering and the natural sciences.

In its ninth year, the Hack Award program provides up to $10,000 in research funding to Princeton Ph.D. candidates exploring water and water-related topics in various disciplines, including climate science, biology, engineering and environmental policy. With the latest awards, 50 Princeton graduate students have received research support from the program.

Schneider will study the effectiveness of colloidal particles in providing a simpler and more efficient method for removing oily contaminants from groundwater aquifers. Her project, entitled “Removing Contaminants from Porous Groundwater Aquifers,” is co-advised by Sujit Datta, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Rodney Priestley, professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Sub-micron sized particles, commonly referred to as colloids, have been shown to bind to and remove oil from porous rocks, but the pathways to removal remain largely unknown. As a result, scientists have little control over optimizing these processes in the field. Schneider will test two types of colloids: surface active colloids — which collect on the surface where oil and water meet — and non-surface active colloids, which do not. This work is part of Datta and Priestley’s PEI Water and the Environment Grand Challenges project, “Targeted Groundwater Remediation Using Engineered Nanoparticles.”

For details on the other winning projects, read the full story.