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Civil engineer earns nationally competitive research grant

Anna Hartenbach | Jul 18, 2018
Lei Wu

Civil engineer earns nationally competitive research grant

Anna Hartenbach | Jul 18, 2018

A Russ College of Engineering and Technology civil engineering faculty member is just one of 36 junior faculty members nationwide to have won a nationally competitive Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) research grant.

Assistant Professor Lei Wu received the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Award Enhancement Award, which provides seed money for faculty in their first two years of a tenure track position. The award provides a total prize of $10,000 -- which includes $5,000 from ORAU and the same in matching funds from Ohio University -- for equipment, research or related travel.

“The Powe Award provides a wonderful opportunity to advance the research and visibility of Dr. Wu and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “This is a prestigious honor and I look forward to seeing the results of Dr. Wu’s important research.”

David Koonce, interim vice president of research and creative activity and dean of Graduate College, and associate dean of industrial and systems engineering, said the award and its funding will grant Wu and her research, which aims to predict how nanoparticles behave in natural environments and engineering applications, important national visibility.

“Dr. Lei Wu is the first OHIO recipient of the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Advancement Award. It is a very significant recognition of her accomplishments to date and her future potential as a scholar,” Koonce said. “Her selection reflects very positively on OHIO as an institution where discovery and innovation are valued.”

According to Wu, engineered nanomaterials are being produced and used more and more, such as in drug delivery, stain-resistant fabrics, medical imaging, cosmetics and corrosion resistance. However, very little is known about their transport and fate once they’re released into an environment. Wu hopes to develop a better understanding of how nanoparticles interact with their environment in order to help predict nanoparticle stability and mobility in soils, groundwater and water treatment systems.

“This understanding is essential to provide accurate predictions of nanoparticle aggregation and transport in subsurface environments, and will be a significant input for developing more effective engineering solutions involving nanoparticle-based applications,” she said.

Wu will collaborate with the Geochemistry and Interfacial Sciences Group at Oak Ridge National Lab, which is based in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This year’s awardees were selected from 159 applicants from ORAU’s 121 member universities. ORAU is a consortium that advances research and educational partnerships across science and technology disciplines, and OHIO became a sponsoring institution in 2016.

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.