Heather Stancl and Natalia von Reitzenstein will do research in pursuit of doctoral degrees in civil and environmental engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with support from professional organizations in their fields.

Von Reitzenstein received a National Water Research Institute Fellowship providing $5,000 each year for two years.

Stancl won a $2,500 scholarship from the WateReuse Arizona organization.

Von Reitzenstein is developing a novel electrospun fiber that can be used for water treatment.

Electrospinning is a methods commonly used for in materials science and biomedical engineering to produce conductive textiles and tissue scaffolding.

“Basically I’m making a new kind of fiber that will improve water treatment by increasing efficiency and reducing costs,” she said. “What’s cool about this idea is that electrospun fibers have a much higher surface-area-to-volume ratio that the conventional ion exchange beads now used for water treatment.”

After earning her degree, she hopes to continue the work at a research university as well as develop new methods for learning engineering that will “get students more interested and invested in this field,” Hoogesteijn said.

Her research advisor is Paul Westerhoff, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

Stancl is using novel nanotechnologies to find solutions to contamination of drinking water. Specifically, she’s exploring ways to remove nitrates from water systems.

The decontamination method she is developing also promises to be effective in removing pesticides and other toxic materials, she said.

“Research to find a successful way to remove nitrate from water involves fundamental chemistry, materials science, engineering and physics,” Stancl explained. “The goal is a product that can be implemented at low cost and require a low amount of energy while removing contaminants that pose a risk to human health.”

Her career aspiration is to “provide a means for implementing access to safe water on a global scale.”

Stancl’s research advisors are Westerhoff and Kiril Hristovki, an assistant professor in the engineering programs in the Polytechnic School.

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