This summer, the University of Notre Dame faculty group, H2O@ND, launched the ND Graduate Water Fellows Program (GWFP), awarding fellowships to eleven Ph.D. students to help grow interdisciplinary training in water-related research across campus.
The Summer 2022 cohort consisted of 2nd year and 3rd year Ph.D.students from diverse departments, including Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Biological Sciences, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences.
“The ND Graduate Water Fellows Program represents a key step in cultivating a vertically-integrated research community, across labs, departments, and colleges, to support collaborative research on water-related challenges across disciplines,” said Jennifer Tank, Director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative and the Ludmilla F., Stephen J. and Robert T. Galla Professor of Biological Sciences. “Our goal is to advance Notre Dame’s place as a global nexus of excellence in water research and training, and helping our graduate students to thrive, via unique programming and community-building, is an integral part of the research engine at ND.”
Over the course of the summer, the fellows engaged in a variety of professional development training sessions including how to perfect your elevator pitch, enhancing science communication using tools like the message box, becoming a better writer through writing accountability practices, understanding the life of a faculty member, and more. In addition to the training modules, each fellow prepared a brief translational video highlighting the significance of their water-related research. Watch fellow videos here.
“Through the Graduate Water Fellows Program, we learned how to collect our thoughts and knowledge, and process them in a way in which we could discuss our work with a multitude of different people, academic or otherwise,” Tye Milazzo, GWFP fellow and PhD student in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. “Despite the great variety of our projects, it was relieving to know that we share many of the same struggles and that we could come up with common solutions to those issues together.”
According to Emma Thrift, GWFP fellow and PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences, the program provided a unique environment that helped foster candid conversations about future career paths as a faculty member, and how to overcome various challenges that arise within academia. “It was a very interdisciplinary program that helped me understand how those with different backgrounds approach water science, while reaffirming that we are all passionate about similar things - access to clean water and water availability worldwide.”
Meet the 2022 ND Graduate Water Fellows
Angela Abarca Perez is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences advised by Kyle Doudrick. Her research objective is to develop a new technology based on catalysts and membranes for the effective treatment of oxidized contaminants in drinking water.
Patrick Cho is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences Department advised by Marc Muller. The focus of his research is how hydrological changes have affected past and current civilizations through the examination of three main topics: drivers of precipitation and water isotopes in Africa, the assimilation of non-traditional datasets in reconstructions, and characterization of the drivers of water yield in ungauged catchments.
Greg Durling is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry advised by Brandon L. Ashfeld. His research investigates the synthesis of ionic liquids for directional solvent extraction. Particularly, he is focused on extracting freshwater from salt water.
Xinhong Liu is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering advised by Alexander Dowling. Guided by tools from process systems engineering, her research focuses on developing a holistic material-engineering data-decision-making framework to accelerate innovations in membrane science aiming at sustainable separations.
Tye Milazzo is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering advised by Tengfei Luo. The focus of his research is to use new synthesized ionic liquids to filter out salt from brine, specifically using heat as the energy source to move dissolved water into the ionic liquid where the salt from the water moves to the ionic liquid.
Ozioma Nwachukwu is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences advised by Kyle Doudrick. The focus of her research is to investigate the weathering process of common micro- and nano plastics (MNPs) resulting from UV irradiation.
Abagael Pruitt is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences advised by Jennifer Tank. Her research focuses on the effects of allochthonous inputs on stream ecosystem function. These inputs include resource pulses such as cicadas and leaves, as well as nitrogen and sediment, both of which influence stream ecosystem processes in different ways and impact downstream water quality.
Emma Thrift is a 2nd year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences advised by Jennifer Tank. Her research includes a two-pronged approach to analyzing the impacts of contaminants on agricultural watersheds that flow into the Great Lakes. She focuses on the transport of nutrients and the fate of antibiotic resistance genes (ARG) within agricultural streams.
Nitin Vincent is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences co-advised by Jason Rohr and Michael Pfrender. His research investigates the phylogenetic diversity of zooplankton communities in the Great Lakes through identifying geographic patterns of biodiversity, potential sequence diversity within species that indicate gene flow, and temporal changes in biodiversity.
Jialing Xu is a 4th year PhD student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering advised by William Phillip. Her research focuses on generating the fundamental science and engineering knowledge needed to enable the design and fabrication of structured sorbents tailored for the selective isolation of trace-level analytes from complex mixtures in an energy-efficient manner.
Alison Zachritz is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences advised by Gary Lamberti. Her research focuses on the movement of the emerging contaminant perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) through the Great Lakes food web by various ecophysiological processes.
Launched in 2020, H2O@ND is an initiative involving more than 50 faculty members across 10 departments, who are working together to expand interdisciplinary water-related research at Notre Dame. The ND Graduate Water Fellows Program (GWFP) is supported through a Moment to See, Courage to Act Planning Grant from the Provost’s Office at Notre Dame.