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“I learned research skills, learned to dig up solutions, and learned to summarize dense and technical research in common language,” says Matt Wokulich ’00, a chemical engineering major from Valencia, Pa., and a graduate of Mars High School. “I know these are skills that industry is looking for.”

Marquis Scholar Matt Wokulich spent the summer developing a nose for research, and it involved some foul-smelling wastewater.

As an EXCEL Scholar assisting Javad Tavakoli, associate professor of chemical engineering, Wokulich, has been sniffing out articles, studies, and monographs on the abatement of hydrogen sulfide odors.

“It’s that horrible rotten egg smell,” Woklich says. “It’s an end product of municipal waste.”

“Odor control has become an increasingly serious problem at wastewater treatment and industrial plants,” Tavakoli explains. “In the past, plants were located far from residential areas and odor-generation was accepted as an inseparable byproduct of their operations. Isolated areas in major cities have become scarce nowadays and offensive odor plagues the communities surrounding such facilities.

“The common source of odor nuisances in industrial wastewater streams is hydrogen sulfide and its organic derivatives,” he continues. “In addition to causing odor problems, hydrogen sulfide is toxic and causes corrosion when in the water lines. Sulfide in wastewater can come either from the bacterial reduction of sulfates or chemiical reactions of sulfur-containing compounds.”

Wokulich has enjoyed his role as researcher.

“I wound up almost living in Skillman Library,” he says. “I used Internet searches but mainly found myself in traditional research, pulling articles, comparing notes.

“After going through piles of research material, I came to the conclusion that the best way to treat odors is a combination of two or three different methods,” he continues. “For example, hydrogen peroxide will disinfect the odors pretty well and then you can use scrubbers which when released into the air attack further the smell.”

Tavakoli says, “Matt is a very good writer, a strong writer who has gotten into research writing and paraphrasing documents and research. He is learning more about the thinking process than the doing process. I can see he is getting excited about actually writing.”

“I learned research skills, learned to dig up solutions, and learned to summarize dense and technical research in common language,” Wokulich says. “I know these are skills that industry is looking for. I hope someday people will read our comprehensive survey and learn from it.” He praises the chemical engineering department for its “intimacy” and its “concern for what happens to us after graduation.”

“I love the department,” he says. “Every professor has his or her own branch of expertise to bring to the game, which has made my experience here so positive. They know each of us individually and they want us to have the skills to find work in industry or make it in graduate school.”

Another Side of Matt

The secretary of the campus chapter of AIChE, the International Association of Chemical Engineers, Matt is also president and baritone/tenor with Lafayette’s men’s a capella group, The Chorduroys, and a resident advisor.

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