New funding helps probe groundwater contamination issues
A Faculty of Engineering professor will use leading-edge medical equipment to understand how bacteria can remove man-made toxins from groundwater, thanks to a $125,000 Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Leaders Opportunity Fund grant earlier this year.
Ania Ulrich, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, focuses her research on groundwater bioremediation, which uses micro-organisms to transform contaminants into non-harmful end products.
Groundwater constitutes 31 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply, but can become contaminated by industrial activity. One remediation method is to use bacteria that feed on toxins to “clean” the groundwater. Ulrich says her award will help purchase a flow cytometry system, which will shed light on the dynamics of bacterial communities.
Flow cytometry is used extensively in medical research, but almost never in engineering. It gives researchers more complete information about bacteria, not only identifying what types of bacteria are present in a sample, but also giving researchers an indication of how healthy the bacteria are.
Ulrich said the equipment “will assist in research that will result in improved air, soil and water quality,” and that increased economic activities associated with the research, development and commercialization of bioremediation technologies “will create and support innovative collaborations and partnerships while attracting and training graduate students.”
An award-winning teacher, Ulrich said the CFI funding enables her students to excel.
“Thanks to funding, my graduate students will be learning cutting-edge techniques to solve real-life problems associated with surface and groundwater sources,” she said. “They will be the next generation of experts and leaders for ensuring the quality of Canada’s water supplies.”