CULLEN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering

News

Cullen College Ph.D. Student Takes Home Award at International Conference

By: 

Laurie Fickman
Aparna Balasubramani, right, with her award
Aparna Balasubramani, right, with her award

A scant few months before she defends her dissertation for a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, Aparna Balasubramani found herself on a podium in New Orleans in January receiving an award for a paper she wrote on ridding waterways of toxic chemicals. The award came at the Battelle organization’s Ninth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments, one of the most prestigious professional gatherings in her field.

In front of 1,190 scientists, engineers, regulators and other environmental professionals from more than 20 countries, Balasubramani accepted her award and thought, “Okay, what I’m doing is not too bad, people are okay with my work!”

Okay and then some. She was awarded runner-up in the student paper competition for her article titled Remediation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediment using carbon-based materials. In the paper, Balasubramani takes on dredging, the common way of eliminating hazardous PCBs, by exploring nanomaterials that may do less harm.

“Dredging is costly, limited in its effectiveness and in some cases has also led to mobilization of the pollutants,” she said. Her paper explores the alternative, using carbon-based materials to soak up the PCBs. She tested many materials in the lab and carbon nanotubes, a derivative of carbon, came out the clear winner.

Balasubramani says PCBs have been a constant threat in waterways since the middle of the 20th century when industry growth was rapidly outpacing environmental regulations or technology that might have prevented them from being spilled into the oceans.

“Due to poorly maintained hazardous waste sites, illegal disposal, electrical equipment leakage and incineration of waste, compounds like PCBs were deposited in sediments in numerous bays and estuaries in the U.S. and elsewhere,” she said.

Regarding her findings, Balasubramani acknowledges a long road ahead, but is happy about this breakthrough.

“There are so many more experiments that would have to be done but this is a first – nobody else has found that carbon nanotubes work better,” she said.

Noted by international scientists and engineers and awarded thusly.

Department: 

Related News Stories

UH Engineers Test Biodegradable Self-Guided Reconnaissance Devices

UH ECE student Jarrett Lonsford works on the electronics for a sensing drift node in Dr. Aaron Becker's lab on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.

Researchers share video of their Advanced Naval Technology Exercise

 

Discretion is an integral part of covert reconnaissance missions. With that in mind, a team of UH Cullen College of Engineering researchers are working on $1 million project to create self-guided biodegradable containers of sensors to map coastlines and the bottom of the ocean. 

Cullen College Professor Wins Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Jerrod Henderson, instructional associate professor at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, with some of his students.

Jerrod Henderson Recognized for Diversity and Student Success Efforts

 

Jerrod Henderson, instructional associate professor at the UH Cullen College of Engineering, will receive the 2019 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from his alma mater. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois chose seven alumni to recognize.

Photos: Fall 2019 Rockwell Lecture Series Presents “Global Warming and Extreme Events”

The second installment of UH Engineering's Distinguished Rockwell Lecture Series was held on Friday, September 13 and featured Lai-Yung Ruby Leung, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Battelle Fellow of Atmospheric Sciences. She visited from the Global Change Division at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.