Campus to host research event for undergraduates

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- Penn State Lehigh Valley will host its annual Undergraduate Research Symposium from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 5, in room 135. The keynote address, "Friends in Small Places: Using Eco-Machines to Clean Contaminated Water and Produce Byproducts with Economic Value," will be delivered at 12:15 p.m. by Rachel Brennan, associate professor of engineering at Penn State. The symposium is open to the public.

Students will showcase posters and exhibits of their scholarly research in the areas of arts and humanities and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Top projects may be entered in the second annual Penn State Regional Undergraduate Research Symposium to be held April 19 at Penn State Brandywine.

Rachel Brennan's keynote presentation addresses the issue that more than one-third of Earth's population is affected by water scarcity and is without water sanitation. Similarly, 1.6 billion people are without access to modern energy, and 0.9 billion are undernourished. As recycling wastewater into drinking water is becoming a critical necessity for many communities, concern is escalating over the effects on aquatic ecosystems and human health. The focus of Brennan's research is to critically evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of using eco-machines to sustainably address these needs.

Brennan also is involved with the Penn State Lehigh Valley environmental outreach program, Connecting Humans and Nature through Conservation Experiences (CHANCE). In 2011, she worked with CHANCE in China to inspire a new generation of citizens who appreciate research as key to environmental sustainability, especially as it relates to Lake Taihu pollution.

Brennan is an environmental engineer with more than 14 years of experience in sediment and groundwater remediation. Her area of expertise is in the application of enhanced bioremediation technologies for the treatment of soil, groundwater, and surface water. She joined the faculty of Penn State in 2004 and has since participated in over 10 research projects exceeding $4.7 million in total funding. In addition to several grants from the National Science Foundation, Brennan's research is also supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Interior, Pennsylvania organizations, and industry. Her work is widely published and she and her research team have given over 60 presentations of their work. She has been recognized by several awards for teaching excellence, including the 2011 Penn State Engineering Alumni Society Outstanding Teaching Award.

For more information, contact University Relations at 610-285-5067 or email


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Last Updated February 29, 2012