By Bridget Coughlin
Natalie Kruse started taking classes at Ohio University when she was just 11 years old and later attended full-time as a Drs. Cruse W. and Virginia Patton Moss-Cutler Scholar. After finishing a degree in civil engineering at 20, she obtained her Ph.D. from Newcastle University in northern England and has completed extensive research on underground mines, watershed management and post-industrial pollution, as well as worked for companies around the globe.
Kruse, a new assistant professor this quarter in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, spent her summer in the U.K., finishing research on the sustainability of biofuels in rural Asia and Africa and food security in Southern Africa. She also did research on the longevity of mine water treatment systems and potential solutions for improving aging treatment systems.
After her time in England, Kruse was ready to bring her knowledge and experience back to her hometown.
"I have been a lot of places, but my real passion is to work on post-industrial pollution in rural areas," Kruse said. "There is a huge environmental problem, right in our backyard. A lot of people don't know it's there, but it really impacts the quality of life for people here."
Kruse returned to Athens just before fall quarter classes began, and hopes to use her recent research to improve the quality of life for those in the Athens community, specifically dealing with her experience and research with the effective and efficient design of acid mine drainage treatment systems.
"If we design them better, we can hopefully have more reliable, long-term solutions," Kruse said.
The overall goal of Kruse's research is to improve the environment in mining and industrial communities through better design and use of data. Kruse said that working with community members is central to this goal.
"My approach to this work is to quantify the basic chemical, physical and biological processes that control environmental remediation to create simple, yet effective design solutions," Kruse said. "Better design of low-cost, low-energy treatment systems for mine water and industrial drainage will not only reduce the contaminant load into streams and rivers but will also help to reduce the energy consumption of the wastewater treatment industry.
"My hope is that advances in low-energy treatment of mine waters can help to inform similar technologies for industrial wastewater and sewage treatment," she added.
Even though Kruse is only 25 years old, she has known her passion since she was a child when her friend and mentor, the late Mary Stoertz, first sparked her interest in rural environments and post-industrial pollution.
"When I was 10 or 11, she (Stoertz) took my brother and I to a few different mining sites to take water samples and measure some water quality characteristics, then to a water education day in New Straitsville," Kruse said. "I was fascinated by what was happening in the region and how widespread the problem was and how close to home it was."
Stoertz, a former associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, worked with Kruse closely throughout Kruse's undergraduate career. Kruse was even invited to present research at a conference Stoertz orchestrated.
"We spent a lot of time together during my undergrad and she was a great help to me when I applied for scholarships for both my undergrad and Ph.D.," Kruse said. "The research that later formed my PhD dissertation grew from a conversation that we once had about research ideas and directions that we would like to go."
Kruse's family is very involved in the Ohio University community as well. Her father, Hans Kruse, is a professor in the McClure School of Information and Telecommunication Systems. Her mother and her older sister each have degrees from Ohio University, and two of her younger siblings are currently enrolled in the university.
"I am of course delighted that Natalie has chosen to begin her faculty career at OU," said her father, Hans Kruse. "Not just because it means her return to Athens, but also because I know in her OU is gaining a skilled researcher who will contribute greatly to the university, the region and her field in general."