Workshop allows for overseas exchange

By Christine Kim

The College of Engineering is enhancing a joint environmental program with a university across seas.

Five Engineering faculty members flew overseas in November 2005 to participate in a workshop with 13 faculty members from the National University of Singapore. The workshop allowed the University’s engineering science program faculty to react closely with Singapore’s.

“We’re looking for ways we can do research together and ways we can exchange students, co-advise students and have faculty from here go over there and vice versa,” said Vern Snoeyink, professor of environmental engineering.

Snoeyink and Wen-Tso Liu, a professor at the National University of Singapore, organized the workshop. This allowed both universities to talk about their research. The five faculty members from the University who attended are: Snoeyink, Mark Clark, Timothy Strathmann, Eberhard Morgenroth and Charlie Werth.

“I think we had a really good workshop,” said Charlie Werth, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We got along very well with our faculty and had a lot of common interest in respect to both teaching and research. We developed draft proposals for potential projects that we could collaborate on and talked about how we can engage students from both countries to get excited about the research.”

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The areas of research addressed by the University included the removal of organic contaminants that get into Singapore’s water when it rains. The water that runs over city streets flows into the reservoirs and takes organic contaminants along with it, decreasing the quality of drinking water.

Other areas of research include air pollution control, hazardous waste, and treatment disposal and clean up of contaminated sites.

“Singapore’s intention is to develop a technology that can easily be exported along the Asian region,” Snoeyink said. “They recognize environmental areas are very important. For example, 50 percent of drinking water is from outside the country.”

Clark said the drinking water treatment and environment transport of contaminants areas in the University’s engineering program are among the top in the nation.

“We have a breath of expertise that (they) can probably learn from,” Clark said. “We can learn about water problems in populous Asian countries … It’s good for us to see the kind of thinking that goes into a small country surrounded by an ocean . It could be critically important for the United States in 10-20 years, especially in the West Coast, (to know their methods of getting water from the sea) so we can learn from that.”

A follow-up workshop is being planned for later this year, which will give an opportunity for the faculty from Singapore to come to the University.

Through the second workshop, Werth hopes that those from Singapore will become more comfortable with the facilities and strengths at the University.

“Our goal is to fully develop the initial proposals that we’ve written based on the outcomes of the first workshop,” he said. “We’d like to discuss those in more detail and bring them into something that’s closer to a form we can submit to a funding agency.”

Before the second workshop, Snoeyink hopes to have a better idea of how some of the research ideas would be funded. Some faculty members have applied for funding to the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army.

“For us to carry out our full plan – all the research we would like to do jointly, the educational programs we would like to have together – we’re going to need more funding,” Snoeyink said.

Snoeyink will be leaving for Singapore next week for a month. Singapore’s government is interested in a having a larger initiative outside the scope of environmental engineering, in the U.S. and the National University of Singapore, to incorporate other roles into environmental research.