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For more than a year, civil engineering major Ting Fong (May) Chui '03 (Hong Kong, China) has been working as an EXCEL Scholar with David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, to research methods of cleaning up groundwater contamination. The pair is analyzing a new way of performing remediation of contaminated aquifers, says Brandes.

Two of the most common groundwater contaminants in the U.S. are the chlorinated solvents trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE), neither of which responds well to standard remediation methods. In conjunction with other researchers, notably at Clemson University, Brandes and Chui are conducting experiments to study a technique to decontaminate groundwater using cosolvents, in particular by flushing contaminated aquifers using an alcohol solution. Their collaboration has included field work at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

“I stayed there for a week and I was amazed by the scale of the research work, having a team of around 10 people running the field experiment 24 hours a day continuously for a couple of weeks,” says Chui. “It helped me to develop a link between my laboratory work at Lafayette and larger field experiments.”

For Chui, who volunteered at the Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserves in Hong Kong before college, the project has been an exciting chance to explore a field she hopes to pursue as a career. ” I enjoy my EXCEL work very much. I view this as a great opportunity to learn,” she says. “As I plan to continue my studies in graduate school, I'm sure this work is the best preparation.”

“May is an exceptionally bright student with a great attitude,” adds Brandes. “On this project, she's learning skills that will serve her well in graduate school or the environmental industry.”

Chui is also pleased to work with a mentor to perform practical applications of her studies. “Professor Brandes is very understanding and helpful,” she says. “He is an excellent professor to work with, providing guidance and at the same time allowing me to explore the research on my own.”

Chui, who took on the EXCEL project due to her interest in hydrology and environmental engineering, will begin a related honors thesis this fall.

Over the January interim session, she conducted an externship with Joseph Heaney '85 at Walden Associates, Inc. in Long Island. The environmental consulting firm's work included remediating groundwater contaminated by TCE or PCE. “Through the externship, I gained a much better understanding of how groundwater remediations are carried out in the real world,” she says.

Chui is treasurer of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and the Association for Women Engineers. She is president of Asian Cultural Association and a member of International Students Association and the United States Taekwondo Union. During the past school year, Chui also served as a peer tutor and participated in intramural sports.

Categorized in: Academic News