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Research and classroom learning opportunities in environmental engineering at Lafayette have received a tremendous boost from equipment purchased through a $366,354 National Science Foundation grant and $123,131 in College funding.

About half of the funding made possible a new integrated environmental research laboratory being shared by the civil and environmental engineering and chemical engineering departments. The rest purchased civil engineering equipment for work with Geographical Information System software, soil resistivity testing, and fluid mechanics instruction.

”This is a big step forward for the engineering program,” says Roger Ruggles, associate professor and head of civil and environmental engineering. ”Faculty members will use the equipment to expand their environmental research programs, most of which are conducted with Lafayette students. In addition, the equipment will benefit at least 20 courses offered by seven faculty. About 200 undergraduates are enrolled in these courses each year, and 12 to 18 will carry the skills learned in them into independent studies, honors theses, or EXCEL Scholars projects. Most of these students will continue their research in graduate programs.”

The new equipment includes a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, electrolytic respirometer, de-ionizing water system, atomic absorption flame, total carbon and surface area analyzers, zeta potentiometer, magnetic susceptibility balance, advanced hydrology system, laminar flow table, fluid properties and hydrostatics bench, rainfall hydrograph unit, sedimentation studies unit, groundwater flow unit, earth resistivity unit, large format plotter and scanner, and six-unit personal computer network.

In addition to Ruggles, principal investigators for the grant were civil and environmental engineering professors Art Kney, David Brandes, and Mary Roth, as well as Javad Tavakoli, associate professor and head of chemical engineering. Faculty and students from geology, chemistry, and the environmental sciences program also will benefit from these new opportunities funded by NSF and Lafayette.

The equipment is being incorporated into a massive renovation and modernization of Lafayette’s engineering facilities. Building upon its national reputation for academic excellence in engineering education, Lafayette will upgrade its entire 90,000-square-foot engineering complex by August 2003. The new complex will be named Acopian Engineering Center in recognition of a major gift from Easton, Pa., businessman Sarkis Acopian, a 1951 Lafayette graduate, and his wife, Bobbye. Acopian is the founder of Acopian Technical Company, Palmer Township, Pa.

The environmental engineering lab primarily will be used by Tavakoli and Kney in their research with students. Earlier this year, they joined Andrew Dougherty, associate professor of physics, in obtaining a $49,832 NSF grant to investigate a method to improve water and wastewater treatment. This summer, for the second consecutive year, they conducted research with Trustee Scholarship recipient Katie Barillas ’04, a chemical engineering major from Bethlehem, Pa., who presented her work and won third place in the National Student Poster Paper Competition at the 2001 Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Student Conference in Reno, Nevada. ”The students are the ones who carry out the experiments, so they’re extremely important,” notes Kney.

Students will use the lab to explore the underlying scientific and technical principles for a wide range of environmental measurement techniques. Classes that incorporate it likely will include Water Supply and Pollution Control, examining issues such as sanitary discharge from a water plant; Introduction to Environmental Engineering, studying the water quality of the nearby Bushkill Stream; and Chemical Processes in Environmental Engineering, analyzing contaminants in wastewater treatment.

Brandes will use the equipment earmarked for the fluid mechanics laboratory to give students experience with hydrological processes.

”It allows us to do different types of laboratory simulations that we have never had the opportunity to do before,” says Ruggles. ”One is a hydrological modeling tool that allows us to create our own rainstorm and monitor the runoff from that storm. The other provides us with a lot of setups to do measurements of fluids, specifically water.”

Last year, Brandes secured grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and National Science Foundation that enhanced the ongoing research on the Bushkill Creek watershed conducted by Lafayette professors and students. This summer, he continued a collaboration lasting over a year with civil engineering major Ting Fong (May) Chui ’03 of Hong Kong, China, in which they have evaluated methods of cleaning up groundwater contamination.

To locate subsurface voids that cause sinkholes, Roth’s earth resistivity testing device will use electric current that provides information about soil and rock materials below the ground surface. NSF also awarded a $76,749 grant to Roth earlier this year to enhance her methods of investigating sites located in sinkhole areas. She will use it to fund collaborations with several researchers, including two students in Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, which provides a stipend to students as they assist faculty with research. Named the 1999 Engineer of the Year by the Lehigh Valley section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Roth has worked closely with more than 15 Lafayette students on research projects, many of which have dealt with earth resistivity testing.

The Geographical Information System laboratory will include high-end computers with exceptional graphics capabilities and peripheral devices. Ruggles will spend time with students in the GIS lab in courses such as Civil Engineering Design and Advanced Surveying, as well as in their research with him. Since the summer, he has been working with Nate Tyson ’04, a double major in civil engineering and geology & environmental geosciences from Easton, Pa., to map the bedrock topography of Northampton County. Since joining the Lafayette faculty in 1985, Ruggles has mentored more than two dozen Lafayette students in research projects.

All of these professors have mentored a number of students who, as undergraduates, have presented their research at conferences and co-authored papers published in academic journals.

Tavakoli and Kney, for example, worked with Marquis Scholar Jessica Molek ’03, a chemical engineering major from Reedsville, Pa., on EXCEL Scholars research in magnetic water treatment that may one day help industries do some cleaning chores in a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way. The student presented her findings at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Student Conference and two annual meetings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and co-authored a paper with the professors that was published in last year’s Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress.

Tavakoli has tackled a number of other wastewater research projects with Lafayette students. Recent work has included a project to use the sun’s radiation to treat industrial wastewater, with Joyce Ong ’04, a biochemistry major from Penang, Malaysia, and Daniel Connolly ’02, a chemical engineering major and Marquis Scholar from Meadville, Pa.; removing color from the wastewater effluent of pulp and paper plants, with chemical engineering majors Naa Quarcoo ’04 of Accra, Ghana, and Garret Nicodemus ’04 of Lake Charles, La.; and control of hydrogen sulfide odors at plants, with chemical engineering major and Marquis Scholar Matt Wokulich ’00 of Valencia, Pa.

Connelly’s work with Tavakoli resulted in a prototype unit that was tested in Peru after successful experiments at Lafayette, as well as a second-place finish for best research presentation at the 1999 national conference of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in Dallas, Tex. Connelly went on to win first place at the 2002 American Institute of Chemical Engineers mid-Atlantic regional conference at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

The results obtained by Quarcoo and Nicodemus led to funding by Mazandaran Wood & Paper Industries, an Iranian firm, to continue their investigation with Tavakoli.

Recent EXCEL Scholars conducting research with Kney have included civil engineering majors Nathan Tregger ’03 of Niantic, Conn., James Mangarillo ’03 of Hampton Bays, N.Y., and Jaeyoung Jang ’04 of Cochabamba, Bolivia, on non-point source pollution in the Bushkill Creek and local wetlands; civil engineering major Crystalann Harbold ’02 of York, Pa., on developing a Geographical Information System to analyze the pollutant stream for a landfill; geology and environmental geosciences major and Marquis Scholar Becky Dreibelbis ’02 of Hamburg, Pa., on using ion exchange materials to remove phosphate from wastewater; and civil engineering major Heron Mochny ’01 of New Dehli, India, on extracting alum from water treatment residuals for reuse.

Dreibelbis and Kney coauthored a paper published in this year’s CSCE/EWRI of ASCE Environmental Engineering Conference Proceeding. Jang, Tregger, and Harbold presented their findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Brandes teamed up with Ruggles and Marquis Scholar Erin O’Brien ’02 of Carlisle, Pa., who graduated with degrees in civil engineering and International Studies, in an EXCEL Scholars project to develop a hydrologic Geographical Information System database for the Bushkill Creek watershed. In addition to O’Brien and Chui, other students recently mentored in research by Brandes include civil engineering majors Mangarillo, Mochny, Jeremy Lucas ’03 of Peckville, Pa., Justin Hoffmann ’02 of Hawley, Pa., Adam Brown ’02 of Pennsauken, N.J., and Marquis Scholar Sandra Doyle ’01 of Springfield, Pa.

Brandes coauthored separate papers with Hoffmann and O’Brien in Proceedings of the ASCE Conference on Water Resources Planning and Management, as well as one with Doyle in Proceedings of The National Conference On Undergraduate Research. He also has presented research with Chui at the Sixth Canadian/American Conference on Hydrogeology, Banff, Alberta, and with Doyle at Laboratory Studies of Contaminant Mobilization from Aquifers by Cosolvent Flushing, University of Kentucky.

After spending a year conducting research at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in Oslo through Fulbright and National Science Foundation grants, Roth used NSF funding to enable O’Brien to spend a week at the institute last January. O’Brien exchanged information with researchers on how the United States and Norway conduct environmental site assessments. Civil engineering major Melissa Landon ’01 of Millerton, N.Y., visited Roth during her sabbatical in Norway as part of an independent study supervised by the professor on the use of electrical resistivity testing to map the consistency of the earth’s subsurface. Landson examined Roth’s work with multi-electrode surveys in Norwegian frozen soils.

Roth also mentored mechanical engineering major Michael Lestingi ’04 of Tallmadge, Ohio, last year in an EXCEL Scholars project to survey the nation’s engineering schools to determine how they teach ethics.

While teaching and conducting research in Uganda under a Fulbright grant, Ruggles mentored Harbold in the framework of an independent study course as she developed a Geographical Information System on environmental issues related to a Kampala landfill. Harbold presented a paper on her work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. The professor also supervised Harbold last school year in an independent study involving creation of a computer model to analyze two covered bridges.

Ruggles and Roth led a non-credit project with Doyle and mechanical engineering major Douglas Fish ’01 of Londonderry, Vt., and Nancy Berrier ’01, a Marquis Scholar with dual degrees in A.B. engineering and geology & environmental geosciences from Mount Laurel, N.J., which examined the risk for sinkholes in agricultural and forested areas.

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