Lecture: 'Using Living Machines to Clean Contaminated Water,' Feb. 6

A free public lecture titled "You're Going to Drink What???: Using Living Machines to Clean Contaminated Water" will be given from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 6, in room 100 of the Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park campus by Rachel Brennan, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Penn State.

The event is the third of six lectures in the 2010 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, a free minicourse for the general public with the theme "Water: The Next Frontier." No registration is required. The lectures take place on six consecutive Saturday mornings in Thomas Building. More information is on the Web at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/frontiers/ online.

Brennan is the director of Penn State's Advanced Ecological Engineering Systems Laboratory, which houses one of the few experimental living machines in the country. She will describe a research program she directs that has the goal of enhancing the capacity of sustainable, energy-efficient living machines to remove harmful contaminants from wastewater.

"The demand on the world's water supplies is increasing and the need for recycling wastewater into drinking water is becoming a critical necessity in many communities," she said. "At the same time, concern is escalating over the health problems caused by recycled water that contains endocrine-disrupting chemicals from everyday items like plastic bottles, medicines and pesticides."

Brennan will describe how her lab is using the roots of fungi to remove these endocrine-disrupting chemicals from wastewater before they can be reintroduced into the water supply. Her research in this area is supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Institute.

Brennan earned her bachelor of science degree in geological engineering with honors at New Mexico State University, and her master's and doctoral degrees in environmental engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During her graduate studies, she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, an Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellow, and an International Research Fellow at the Technical University of Stuttgart, Germany.

In January 2004, Brennan joined Penn State as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In 2007, she was awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation to develop her research on the simultaneous biological, chemical and physical treatment of acid mine drainage using crab-shell chitin. Her other research interests include the bioremediation of soil and groundwater contaminants, the development of sustainable nutrient sources for the treatment of hazardous waste, microbial ecology within remediation systems and the removal of endocrine disruptors from wastewater using fungal mycelia.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The 2010 series is sponsored jointly by the Penn State Eberly College of Science and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information by telephone at 814-863-0901 or by e-mail at science@psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010