Sunday, June 14, 2009

Enriched Learning at IHE

Author: Wendy Mussoline

My typical weekdays consist of about 8 hours in the lab conducting experiments involving anaerobic sludge digestion. I'm working with a post-doc student (Jan) who is originally from Prague, Czech Republic. He is a wonderful mentor and has been providing intensive training for me to take on the project as my own over the summer. The lab staff at IHE have been very helpful providing instruction on how to properly use the instruments such gas chromotographs, atomic absorption spectrometers, and many other fun new toys. As an environmental consultant, I'm accustomed to collecting samples in the field and them sending them to the lab for analysis. During my training here at IHE, I've learned exactly how to prep and analyze the samples in the lab to produce my own results. It's been a great learning experience thus far.

On Friday, there was special symposium at IHE with a theme about Water/Wastewater Science and Technology for Sustainable Development. Two renowned professors associated with IHE (Dr. Piet Lens who is shown in the picture with me & Dr. Gary Amy) gave stimulating lectures on sustainable treatment technologies for both the developing and developed world. Paul Reiter with the International Water Association spoke of Urban Water Challenges that we will face in the future because of global climate change and exploding population growth. He expressed the need to diversify our portfolio when it comes to water sources as our access will increasingly become more limited. For example, in Singapore there are four national taps - water from desalination, "new water" that is recycled for reuse, local catchment basins for rainfall, and water that is imported from surrounding regions. We must see the coming challenges as opportunities and be innovative so we can do more with less.

In the upcoming week, my mentor (Jan) will be visiting family in Prague and I will be responsible for running the reactors all week. I must feed them the right nutrients, monitor them carefully by measuring a littany of parameters, and make sure they are content when Jan returns. Upon his return we will dose them with cobalt and expedite the methane production. It will be exciting to see the results of the 6-8 week experiment. Then it's back to Tampa to put into action all this wonderful training for myself. For now, I'm a sponge soaking up all that I can.

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