Home Campus Directory | A-Z Index
Dr. Rachel Brennan, Featured Speaker

Dr. Rachel A. Brennan, Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, Penn State University, will present Friends in Small Places: Using Eco-Machines to Clean Contaminated Water and Produce Byproducts with Economic Value at the 2012 Penn State Lehigh Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 5, 2012.

Dr. Brennan is an Environmental Engineer with over 14 years of experience in sediment and groundwater remediation. Her area of expertise is in the application of enhanced bioremediation technologies for the treatment of soil, groundwater, and surface water. She has developed innovative in situ remediation technologies for treating chlorinated solvents, hydrocarbons, nitrate, perchlorate, and acid mine drainage (AMD). Her most recent area of work is in the sustainable removal of emerging contaminants from wastewater using enzymatic biocatalysis. Other areas in which she has a strong interest include mixed waste treatment, multi-contaminant toxicology, life cycle assessment, green building design, and sustainable drinking water treatment. As a tenured faculty member at Penn State, she has been recognized for her achievements in research, teaching, and public service.

Abstract:  Currently 2.4 billion people, over one third of the Earth’s population, are affected by water scarcity and are without sanitation.  Similarly, 1.6 billion people are currently without access to modern energy, and 0.9 billion are undernourished.  Meanwhile, as recycling wastewater into drinking water is becoming a critical necessity in many communities, concern is escalating over the effects of residual endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on aquatic ecosystems and human health.  The focus of our work is to critically evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of using decentralized, ecological wastewater treatment systems (or eco-machines) to sustainably address these needs through the incorporation of modular subsystems of EDC-degrading fungi, nutrient-absorbing duckweed, and biodiesel-producing algae, which together will reduce environmental contaminants and convert waste products into valuable resources.  Since eco-machines are decentralized, robust, and relatively simple to operate, they have the potential to solve sanitation problems in developing countries, while simultaneously providing food and energy to those who desperately need it.