Calvin Students Study Purifying Water

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Two Calvin College senior engineering students are among 30 undergraduate students nationwide to earn prestigious research fellowships from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Amanda Hayes and Rhiana Cok, both with civil and environmental concentrations, are in the second year of their two-year undergraduate fellowships from the EPA's Greater Research Opportunities program (GRO).

Both received the GRO fellowship in their junior year after a summer of research with Calvin engineering professor David Wunder. The fellowship provides for tuition, books, and a monthly stipend, and encourages their continued research under Wunder.

Hayes and Cok are doing research in an area that could have worldwide applications.

For instance, the United Nations suggests that each person needs 20-50 liters of safe freshwater a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Nearly 900 million people worldwide don't have access to this amount of safe freshwater.

The GRO fellowships are intended to help defray costs associated with environmentally oriented study leading to academic degrees conferred at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The program allows for a select number of students to intern at one of several EPA facilities nationwide. Cok researched treatment of water purification waste at the Cincinnati lab, and Hayes researched waste reduction for various businesses at the Atlanta lab.

Each student then undertakes a research project at his or her school.

Hayes focused on using bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane refinement, to treat water. Hayes is researching how that charcoal filters various organic compounds out of the water, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals.

Cok took over a line of research from the previous two GRO fellowship students at Calvin. She is researching a process of water purification called slow-sand filtration. The research improves understanding of how pharmaceutical compounds interact with the slow-sand filtration process used throughout the world.

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