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Environmental Graduate Student Wins Highest ACS Honor

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Laurie Fickman
Chong Dai is using chemistry to clean up the environment
Chong Dai is using chemistry to clean up the environment

Chong Dai, Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering, has won the American Chemical Society (ACS) Environmental Chemistry Graduate Student Award. The prestigious honor is bestowed on 25 students, at most, annually.

The award recognizes graduate students working in areas related to environmental chemistry. That’s Dai’s passion. No doubt the award committee saw it.

“My dream is to clean-up special pollutants. In some developing countries the environment is pretty bad, so I’d like to help find a way to eliminate the hazards,” said Dai.

Seems like she’s cleaning up already, at least in the publication field. Dai is convinced the amount of papers she’s had published as a graduate student helped tip the scales in her favor to win the award. Already she is published as the first author on three articles, four as co-author and another four under consideration. She thinks the ACS may have ultimately voted for her because she was published twice in the most prominent journal in her field, the ACS journal Environmental Science and Technology, once as lead author. She also credits her advisor, Yandi Hu, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, for giving her detailed advice and direction. 

To clean the environment, Dai focuses on nanoparticles made of iron hydroxide.

“I study how we can use nanoparticles to treat environmental pollutants,” said Dai. “The material is very cheap and it is not harmful.” She’d like to develop new material that could one day be sent out to industry to help oil and chemical production become less expensive and more environmentally friendly. For herself, she envisions a future in the classroom, but at the head of it.

“I want to be a professor,” said Dai.

Small wonder she’s so adept at having papers published.

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