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Meet the ACS ES&T Engineering Early Career Board

ACS ES&T Engineering is proud to announce the appointment of its first Early Career Advisory Board. The group collectively represents the full breadth of the best of the journal from excellent scholarship to leading cutting-edge research and beyond.

Take a few minutes getting to know some of our members of the ACS ES&T Engineering Early Career Board:

Marta Hatzell, Georgia Institute of Technology

Marta Hatzell

Marta Hatzell

What’s your background?

I have a background in mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, energy, and the environment.

What are you currently working on?

Broadly, we work on environmental-related catalysis and separations. More specifically, we investigate photocatalytic and electrocatalytic routes to capture and convert inert and waste nitrogen, electrified carbon capture and conversion, and systems central to the water-energy nexus.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

Multi-disciplinary insights into the design and analysis of emerging environmental technologies.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

Understanding and effectively taking social cost into consideration when designing and defining what is a sustainable technology.

Follow Marta’s research on Twitter: @MartaHatzell.


Amy V. Mueller, Northeastern University

Amy V. Mueller

Amy V. Mueller

What’s your background?

I have a background in electrical engineering, computer science, and environmental chemistry.

What are you currently working on?

Building better tools for studying the environment and optimizing environmental infrastructure, fusing science knowledge with designing new sensors, and leveraging data science innovation.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

An interdisciplinary perspective around adapting “black box” numerical techniques for use in the sciences, especially around accuracy and trustworthiness issues.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

The cost of collecting environmental data – meaning our datasets are likely always going to be “small!”


Ngai Yin Yip, Columbia University

Ngai Yin Yip

What’s your background?

My primary training is in physicochemical separation techniques for environmental applications, with a focus on water purification and desalination. I received my doctoral degree in chemical and environmental engineering from Yale University, where I worked on advancing novel membrane technologies for the sustainable production of energy and water. My postdoctoral research topic pivoted to microbiology and was performed at the Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering. I received my undergraduate degree in civil and environmental engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

What are you currently working on?

The overarching aim of my research is to develop and advance physicochemical technologies to address challenges at the interface of water, energy, and the environment. We are especially interested in energy-efficient desalination to address global water challenges. Our recent focus in that direction is on pioneering outside-the-box innovations to treat the emerging problem of hypersaline brines. We are also working on technological solutions for decentralized nutrient recovery from anthropogenic waste streams, which we think is a critical component for the transition to a circular economy. To achieve a principles-based approach for the development of next-generation membrane materials, we are investigating the fundamental phenomena governing transport in thin-film polymers. We hope the insights from our studies can guide the rational design and fabrication of membranes with enhanced separation selectivity.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I am excited to be a part of the ACS ES&T Engineering Early Career Board! I hope to bring an early-career perspective on the new directions and emerging challenges in water quality and quantity, contribute to elevating the scientific rigor of water engineering, and be a conduit between the journal and my fellow early career researchers.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

While concentrating on developing engineering solutions for our water challenges, it is important not to lose sight of making the technologies and innovations as widely accessible as possible. With the inequality gap ever-widening, environmental engineers and scientists have an obligation to ensure that underprivileged communities, domestically and globally, do not end up being underserved because they are priced out of advances in water purification and treatment. We have much work to do to secure an equitable water future for all.

Learn more about Ngai’s research on his website.


Xin Wang, Nankai University

Xin Wang

Xin Wang

What’s your background?

I completed my B.E. in environmental engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology in 2004. After that, I continued my Ph.D. study under the supervision of Professor Yujie Feng in the same university, majoring in environmental science and engineering. During 2008-2009, I moved to Penn State University as a joint Ph.D. student, working with Professor Bruce Logan. My Ph.D. research focused on energy recovery from wastewater using microbial fuel cells. I joined the department of environmental engineering at Nankai University, China as a lecturer after I received my Ph.D. in the summer of 2010. I was promoted to associate professor and full professor in 2012 and 2017, appointed as the Department Chair of Environmental Engineering in 2019. I was a one-year visiting scholar at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I worked with Professor Zhiyong Jason Ren from 2015-2016. My research has been recognized by the Water-Star Prize (IWA-YWP China), Scopus Young Researcher Award, etc.

What are you currently working on?

My current research mainly focuses on the fundamentals of electroactive biofilm formation on the carbon electrode and the microbial ecology of electroactive and non-electroactive microbes. The electroactive microbes are considered as the energy transporter that can obtain electrons directly from the electrode to the accelerate biodegradation. I believe that the deep understanding of the relationship between these microbes will help us to develop novel biological augmentation technologies to solve environmental problems, such as the biodegradation of refractory pollutants and resource recovery from wastewater. Now we are developing microbial electrochemical technologies for fast treatment of organic pollutants in water and soil, active nitrogen recovery, dehalogenation and sensing biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), and early warning of toxicity.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I hope to bring my expertise on microbial electron transfer, biofilm formation and ecology, nutrient conversion and recovery from wastewater, and biosensing to ACS ES&T Engineering. I believe the interdisciplinary study of electrochemistry, microbiology, and ecology will be more and more important to push the conventional biodegradation technologies forward to a more efficient and controllable level in the future.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

The understanding of microbial electron transfer in the biofilm, especially the interspecies extracellular electron transfer in complex biofilm formed from natural inocula (wastewater, soil, sediment), is interesting and challenging. In-situ investigation methods have to be developed to reveal the real-time response of electroactive microbes over time to the electrochemical parameters at both single-cell and microbial community levels. Molecular microbiological tools in combination with electrochemical and biological modeling are needed to fulfill the gap between theoretical and experimental studies. More effort should be devoted to linking the fundamental findings to new technology development. For the bioelectrochemical sensors, the design and standardization of electroactive biofilm, the data analysis with machine learning, and the device design are the challenges right now.


Heather Holmes, University of Utah

Heather Holmes

Heather Holmes

What’s your background?

My educational background is in mechanical engineering, but my research is transdisciplinary and incorporates environmental engineering, atmospheric science, and environmental health. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Utah with a focus on experimental atmospheric turbulence. After graduate school, I did two postdocs, one of which was at Georgia Tech, where I focused on air quality and exposure modeling for environmental epidemiology studies. In 2014, I started as an assistant professor in atmospheric science at the University of Nevada, Reno.

What are you currently working on?

In my research group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah, we are currently working in the areas of atmospheric turbulence, air pollution, and environmental health. Using ground-based sensors, atmospheric models, and satellite remote sensing, we investigate atmospheric physics, air pollution sources, transport and dispersion, and provide data for human health and public policy assessments. One aspect of our research is to improve atmospheric models for wildfire smoke transport and temperature inversions, where both frequently lead to poor air quality in the western U.S. We also use novel data analytics to incorporate multiple sources of data into estimates of human exposure to ambient air pollution.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I am excited to serve on the Early Career Board for ACS ES&T Engineering and to collaborate with a network of my peers. I also hope my knowledge and experience in air quality and environmental health brings strong interdisciplinary expertise to the growth of the journal.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

There are several interesting challenges in the realm of atmospheric science and environmental health. The four challenges I spend the most time thinking about are:

  1. Better models for atmospheric turbulence to improve regional-scale numerical weather prediction modeling.
  2. Understanding personal-level human exposures to ambient and indoor air pollution.
  3. Fine-scale modeling of the spatiotemporal gradients of ambient air pollution concentrations that incorporate microscale atmospheric flows.
  4. How to provide big data learning opportunities and teach the future workforce to use open access datasets.

Xiaonan Wang, National University of Singapore

Xiaonan Wang

What’s your background?

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I received my B.Eng. from Tsinghua University in 2011 and Ph.D. from University of California, Davis, in 2015. After working as a postdoctoral research associate at Imperial College London, I joined NUS as an assistant professor in 2017.

What are you currently working on?

My research focuses on the development of intelligent computational methods, including multi-scale modeling, optimization, control, data analytics, and machine learning for applications in energy, environmental, and manufacturing systems to support smart and sustainable development. I am leading a Smart Systems Engineering research group at NUS of more than 20 team members as PI and also the deputy director of the Accelerated Materials Development program in Singapore.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I hope to incorporate into the journal more state-of-the-art content on data-driven analysis and intelligent tools to benefit environment research and sustainable development. Low-carbon development to achieve carbon neutrality in the near future in multiple sectors is another direction I would like to develop. Moreover, I am encouraging all female researchers and students to be proud of our work and choose to challenge it.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

How to obtain high-quality and large-amount big data for energy and environment systems.

Follow Xiaonan’s research on Twitter: @xnwang07.


Marina Eller Vance, University of Colorado Boulder

Marina Eller Vance

Marina Eller Vance

What’s your background?

I am an environmental engineer by training. I received my bachelor’s and masters at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in southern Brazil and my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. After obtaining my Ph.D., I had an unusual postdoctoral experience, where I helped run two research centers at Virginia Tech, one called the Virginia Tech Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology and one called NanoEarth, which is a node in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure. Despite all this focus on environmental nanotechnology, my primary field of expertise is actually air quality.

What are you currently working on?

My research is centered on applying engineering tools to better understand and minimize human exposure to environmental contaminants that may occur from everyday activities and the use of consumer products. My research group performs experimental investigations into the physical and chemical characteristics of aerosols from everyday sources, from emissions to subsequent transformations, in both indoor and outdoor environments.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I hope to contribute to this great new publication’s efforts in air quality and aerosol publications, both by performing peer reviews and aiding in other efforts that may enhance the contributions of diverse members of our scientific community.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

Recently, my work has focused on indoor aerosols from everyday activities such as cooking. Indoor air quality, in general, is receiving renewed and much-deserved attention lately, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has brought two important issues front and center:

  1. The airborne transmission aspect of the coronavirus disease, bringing more attention to the need for ventilation and air cleaning, especially in schools and offices.
  2. The fact that people are spending more time at home, bringing more attention to air quality in the home. Both issues will have long-lasting effects on the way we do think about indoor air quality.

Follow Marina’s research on Twitter: @marinavance.


Kangwoo Cho, Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech)

Kangwoo Cho

Kangwoo Cho

What’s your background?

I received a B.S. in economics and an M.S. in Civil, Urban, and Geosystem Engineering  from Seoul National University in South Korea. My research initiated from a biological nutrient removal process combined with electrochemical clarification of activated sludge. Thereafter, I joined the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in 2006-2016 for the commercialization of environmental materials for filtration/adsorption-based water treatment. These experiences served as a momentum for the current works on electrochemically intensified environmental technologies. During 2010-2014, I pursued a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology under the supervision of Professor Michael R. Hoffmann. I was involved in the ‘Reinvent the Toilet’ project to work towards a self-standing water/energy cycle for sanitation facilities in developing countries, based on wastewater electrolysis cells. These solid backgrounds could establish my primary research field on environmental electrochemistry. My major honors include the environmental electrochemistry prize given by the International Society of Electrochemistry in 2015.

What are you currently working on?

My research interests nowadays span broadly in electrochemical or photochemical processes for water treatment coupled with energy conversion. In particular, the core principles in electrochemical water splitting, fuel cell, and battery could be modified for environmental purposes in terms of wastewater electrolysis/fuel cell and capacitive deionization, among others. The top priority is currently placed on material engineering to control electrochemical activity and the selectivity for generation of reactive oxygen/chlorine species, direct electron harvesting from pollutants, and non-Faradaic separation of ionic pollutants. These fundamental researches can be deployed for novel processes or intensification of existing practices.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

Growing concerns on hitherto unforeseen aqueous micro-pollutants and renewable energy sources led us to variable electrochemical processes as the most direct methods to control and monitor redox transformation and separation of aqueous pollutants. However, the key requirements for the electrochemical water/energy nexus processes for broad applications would include proper engineering of the electrocatalysts with suitable properties in wastewater matrix. In addition, long-term stability should be secured for a practical application. The electrochemical water treatment processes have been commercially available for many years. However, results of a long-term field operation focusing on problems associated with side reactions in natural wastewater have been rarely shared in this community. As an early career board member of ACS ES&T Engineering, I want to contribute in terms:

  1. Suitability of electrocatalysts for wastewater treatment
  2. Sustainability of the electrochemical processes for a long-term operation, hopefully in a field condition.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

Growing concerns on hitherto unforeseen aqueous micro-pollutants and renewable energy sources led us to variable electrochemical processes as the most direct methods to control and monitor redox transformation and separation of aqueous pollutants. However, the key requirements for the electrochemical water/energy nexus processes for broad applications would include proper engineering of the electrocatalysts with suitable properties in wastewater matrix. In addition, long-term stability should be secured for a practical application. Current issues in environmental and energy science should be addressed in terms of acceleration of elemental redox cycles. For example, oxidation of aqueous organic pollutants to carbon dioxide has been a long-standing aim of environmental science, whereas the reduction of carbon dioxide back into the energy carriers is paramount in energy science. In this regard, my research group seeks an engineering solution for the water-energy nexus based on the core principles of electrochemistry.

Learn more about Kangwoo’s research on his website.


Mingyang Xing, East China University of Science and Technology

What’s your background? 

I received my Ph.D. in Applied Chemistry from East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) in 2012 and joined ECUST as an assistant professor in the same year. From 2015 to 2016, I worked as a visiting scholar in the research group of Professor Yadong Yin in University of California, Riverside. In 2019, I was hired as a professor by ECUST.

What are you currently working on? 

My current research interests include:

  1. The treatment of refractory organic pollutant wastewater by Fenton-like nanotechnology and other advanced oxidation technologies.
  2. Nano-photocatalysis combined with Fenton-like catalysis technology for the control of environmental pollutants.
  3. Reduction and recycling of CO2 molecules.

At present, as an independent PI, I lead a research group of about 20 team members and undertake research projects supported by the Natural Science Foundation of the Chinese Government. In addition, I also serve as the deputy director of Shanghai Engineering Research Center for Multi-media Environmental Catalysis and Resource Utilization.

What do you hope to bring to the journal? 

I am very happy to be an early career board member of ACS ES&T Engineering. I will be motivated to promote the application of nano- oxidation and reduction technology in the field of pollutant control and carbon neutralization.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

  1. How to prepare nanosized catalysts at low cost on a large scale. 
  2. How to realize the combination of oxidation and reduction technology in the same reaction system. 
  3. How to find suitable application scenarios for nanotechnology.

Zhenfeng Bian, Shanghai Normal University

What’s your background?

I completed my Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry from the Shanghai Normal University in 2010. After that, I was a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow in the lab of Professor Tetsuro Majima during 2010–2013. In 2013, I started as a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Shanghai Normal University.

What are you currently working on?

My research interests are focused on the design and synthesis of nanomaterials for environmental photocatalysis. The main applications include precious metal recycling, heavy metal treatment, and pollutant degradation. I am leading a research group at SHNU of more than 20 team members as PI and am also the executive director of MOE Key Laboratory of Resource Chemistry.

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I am excited to serve on the Early Career Board for ACS ES&T Engineering. Photocatalysis is a part of the frontier science of environmental chemistry. I hope to have a high-level journal in the field of photocatalysis, through which I can communicate with my peers around the world. It can help the technological research and industrial development of photocatalysis. It can also be used to popularize science and transform academic achievements.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

There are still many scientific problems to be explored to realize the green and efficient recycling of valuable metals in solid waste by photocatalysis, so we still have a lot of work to do.


Shihong Lin, Vanderbilt University

What’s your background?

I am an environmental engineer by training and have research expertise in water separation and environmental interfacial science. I received my bachelor’s degree from Harbin Institute of Technology and my M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from Duke University, all in Environmental Engineering. I received my postdoc training at Yale University before joining Vanderbilt University in 2015.

What are you currently working on?

I am mostly interested in water separation processes for water treatment, desalination, and resource recovery. Our research group uses both experimental and theoretical approaches to study membrane, thermal, electrochemical, and hybrid separation processes to address challenges at the water-energy-food nexus. We are currently investigating the fundamentals and technologies for selective solute separation, energy efficient desalination, and brine management.   

What do you hope to bring to the journal?

I am very honored to be part of the inaugurating Early Career Board and hoping to contribute to the journal my expertise in water separation science and technology with the depth and breadth of my understanding on this topic. I also hope to serve as an ambassador for ACS ES&T Engineering and help it become the to-go-journal for high-quality papers in the field of environmental engineering and technology. 

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

Bridging the gap between fundamental scientific understanding and developing realistically impactful technological solutions.


Manish Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar

 

What’s your background?

I have a background in environmental science and engineering with a specialisation in hydrogeobiochemistry.

What are you currently working on?

My research group’s overarching objective is to ascertain, broaden, comprehend, & develop various dimensions of the fate, transport, and remediation of geogenic, micro, microbial, and emerging contaminants in the freshwater systems. I am currently working on wastewater surveillance of COVID-19.

What do you hope to bring to the journal? 

A capability to deal with the article (that is submitted to ACS ES&T Engineering) of the interdisciplinary interface including hydrogeochemistry, water and soil pollution, metal speciation and toxicity, legacy/emerging contaminants and remediation technologies, and microbial and antibiotic resistance perspectives.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

The top 10 trends are as follows:

  1. Application of wastewater surveillance for better pandemic preparedness through early warning system
  2. Treatment for SARS-CoV-2 RNA removal from the ambient environment: statistical and temporal significance
  3. Multi-drug resistance during and aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic
  4. Metal removal, partitioning and phase distributions in the wastewater and sludge: Performance evaluation
  5. Natural recharge and anthropogenic forcing imprints that influences Arsenic vulnerability
  6. Groundwater in-situ treatment perspective in the Post-COVID Anthropocene
  7. Utilization of Fly Ash Amended Sewage Sludge as Brick for Sustainable Building Material
  8. Perchlorate behavior in the context of black carbon and metal cogeneration
  9. Identification of aquifer-recharge zones and sources in an urban development area
  10. Understanding the extent of interactions between groundwater and surface water

Follow Manish’s research on Twitter: @manishkenv.


Drew Gentner, Yale University

What’s your background?

I am an Associate Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University. Previously, I studied Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering at Northwestern (2007), and went on to the University of California, Berkeley for my M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering (2012) where I had the valuable opportunity to work with fantastic researchers in environmental engineering, environmental sciences, and chemistry. I joined the Chemical and Environmental Engineering department at Yale in 2014, with a courtesy appointment in Yale’s School of the Environment.

What are you currently working on?

My research group focuses on air quality and atmospheric organic chemistry, with applications in both outdoor and indoor environments. This includes an emphasis on the emissions of reactive gas- and particle-phase organic compounds, especially from non-traditional sources (e.g. volatile chemical products) and their chemical transformations. We are passionate about analytical chemistry, with a focus on both accessible instrumentation to enable spatiotemporally-resolved studies as part of the SEARCH (Solutions for Energy, AiR, Climate, and Health) Center at Yale and high-resolution mass spectrometry methods with gas and liquid chromatography to elucidate the chemical composition of complex organic mixtures, their emissions, chemical-physical processes, and impacts.

What do you hope to bring to the journal? 

I am excited about ACS ES&T Engineering and thrilled to be part of the Early Career Board. My goal with my peers on the Early Career Board is to make the journal a venue for excellent research in environmental engineering and technology that addresses key issues in air pollution across outdoor and indoor environments and associated measurement technologies.

What’s the most interesting challenge in your field at the moment?

Emissions of pollutants and reactive chemical precursors, and the atmospheric chemical processes that all drive urban air pollution are evolving in fascinating ways across chemical, spatial, and temporal scales that present exciting challenges for measurement approaches, scientific understanding, modeling, and mitigation.

Follow Drew’s research on Twitter: @drew_gentner.

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