Sciences: Sustainability

Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Supervising Faculty Members:Lisa Colosi Peterson

Specialization: Sustainability

Research Focus: Our group focuses on trying to improve energy and water sustainability at the same time, by collecting reusable energy during wastewater treatment. In particular, we are trying to determine whether it makes sense to produce algae-derived biofuels at municipal wastewater treatment plants. We are especially curious to know what environmental “costs” and “benefits” are associated with this system.

Job Description:

  • Help prepare growth media for algae cultures.
  • Help harvest algae cultures.
  • Monitor gas changes (oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, or methane) during growth of algae cultures and/or during digestion reactions.

Required Skills, Courses, Resources, or Background: 

  • Stoichiometry calculations for medium recipes.
  • Organized, neat approach to lab work.
  • Promptness.
  • Microsoft Excel

Our research requires us to growing pure cultures of living algae biomass. These cultures require near daily monitoring, and they can become contaminated very easily if proper lab technique is not always used. Contamination can ruin several weeks’ worth of work. Thus, we need someone who is reliable (always shows up on time) and careful (doesn’t cut corners or take shortcuts to finish quickly).

Training: Student will need to complete UVA’s EHS online training module.       

What You Will Learn:

  • Understand and explain the basics of how wastewater is treated in the US.
  • Articulate the positive and negative potential benefits of algae biofuels.
  • Explain (in broad strokes) the potential impacts (positive and negative) of biofuels in general on water and energy sustainability and global climate change.