Each year, the Summer Scholars Program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. This summer, we’ll be profiling three engineering students as they work on their projects.
Name: Jenny Skerker
Hometown: Lexington, MA
Major: Environmental engineering, E17
Faculty mentor: Associate Professor John Durant
Project: Over the last several years, you might have seen a Tufts RV driving around Boston. That RV, operated by Tufts CEE graduate students and equipped with fast-response air pollution monitoring equipment, was collecting data on air quality throughout the city. Skerker will bring some of that data into an analysis program called AERMOD to model air dispersal patterns from the northbound and southbound Central Artery Tunnel exits beneath downtown Boston — a particular focus that hasn’t been studied before. “My question that I’ll be trying to answer,” Skerker says, “is: where is this pollution going [when it exits the tunnel]? Does it affect neighboring communities? What’s the downwind direction?”
More information: Big road blues
Widespread use of electric vehicles could offer relief from pollution, says Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Iryna Zenyuk, and hydrogen fuel cells present the option for a cleaner, more efficient power source. However, the water byproduct created inside a hydrogen fuel cell compromises the cell’s efficiency.
Tufts Now covers the work being done by Zenyuk and colleagues as they develop new ways to see how water droplets form inside a fuel cell’s tiny cathode layer.
A team of Tufts researchers, including professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have demonstrated a promising alternative for food preservation, using an ultra-thin coating of biocompatible silk to keep fruit fresh without refrigeration.
Their research has been published in Scientific Reports. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include first author Benedetto Marelli, Ph.D., formerly a post-doctoral associate in the Omenetto laboratory and now at MIT; and Mark A. Brenckle, Ph.D., former research assistant in the Omenetto Laboratory, now at Columbia University.
Professor Dan Kuchma, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor Dan Kuchma discussed offshore installations and siting as part of the 2016 Wind Energy Research Workshop, sponsored by National Science Foundation, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Tufts University, and UMass Lowell which was held March 15-17.
Kurt Pennell, Professor and Chair, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Engineered nanoparticles could improve oil and gas recovery by acting as contrast agents to detect, image, or modify subsurface conditions of oil and gas reservoirs. However, nanoparticle mobility can be limited by saline solutions and porous materials. Chemistry Views magazine reports on Professor Kurt Pennell and colleagues’ examination of the ability of polymers and surfactants to enhance the mobility of polymer-coated magnetite nanoparticles.
Improved Mobility of Magnetite Nanoparticles at High Salinity with Polymers and Surfactants,
Anthony A. Kmetz, Matthew D. Becker, Bonnie A. Lyon, Edward Foster, Zheng Xue, Keith P. Johnston, Linda M. Abriola, Kurt D. Pennell, Energy Fuels 2016.
Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths
Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor Tufts University School of Medicine, adjunct professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and former chair of the EPA’s Drinking Water Committee, Science Advisory Board, says when it comes to tracking lead, he says, “there’s no way you can say we’re doing an adequate job.”
The Environmental Protection Agency requires utilities to test water for high levels of lead, but “what’s clear to us now is that the amount of lead testing that’s being done isn’t enough, and the method itself isn’t very good,” Griffiths says. “Things can fall through the cracks when it comes to what the state has the capacity to do.”
Read more about lead contamination and testing in Mother Jones.
Professor Steven Chapra, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor Steven Chapra received the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s 2016 Wesley W. Horner Award for his paper “Sed2K: Modeling Lake Sediment Diagenesis in a Management Context.” Chapra also received this award in 2015, making him only one of two first-author recipients who has received the award in consecutive years. The paper, co-authored with Rasika K. Gawde, Martin T. Auer, Rakesh K. Gelda, and Noel R. Urban, was considered to have “the most valuable contribution to the environmental engineering profession” in the past year.
Dean emerita, Linda Abriola, named new director of Tufts Institute for the Environment
Linda Abriola, a nationally recognized authority on groundwater contamination and remediation, has been appointed director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), with the goal of raising the institute’s profile both within and outside the university.
Abriola, the former dean of Tufts School of Engineering and one of five University Professors at Tufts, will focus on generating new connections that bolster interdisciplinary environmental research and education for faculty and undergraduate and graduate students.
“I view TIE as an entity that is rooted in Tufts’ longstanding culture of education and research for societal impact,” says Abriola. “This appointment offers me a wonderful opportunity to work across the campus to engage diverse groups of faculty and students to create new synergies. Our primary goal will be to leverage Tufts’ intellectual capital to make a difference in the world.”
Read more at TuftsNow.
Ayse Asatekin, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin received an NSF CAREER Award for her proposal to engineer novel membranes with new capabilities by designing polymers that self-assemble to form nanostructures. Membrane filtration is energy efficient, simple, scalable, and a key technology for generating clean, safe water and for preventing water pollution. Asatekin’s research focuses on controlling the pore size of a novel family of membranes with high flux, exceptional fouling resistance, and sharp size-based selectivity, prepared by coating zwitterion-containing amphiphilic copolymers on porous supports.
Adjunct Professor Doug Brugge (CEE) is quoted in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal about the dangers of water sources contaminated with uranium. Research teams at Tufts and the University of New Mexico are linking long-term exposure of drinking uranium-contaminated water to signs of reproductive and genetic damage, among other problems.
“We should not have any doubts as to whether drinking water with uranium in it is a problem or not. It is,” said Brugge, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The larger the population that’s drinking this water, the more people that are going to be affected.