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Integration of the Humanities, Science, and Engineering Aspects of an Undergraduate Engineering Research Experience

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Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference



Publication Date

April 9, 2021

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April 9, 2021

End Date

April 10, 2021

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Dorothy W. Skaf Villanova University

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Dorothy Skaf is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Villanova University. Her research interests address water treatment and sustainability. Her teaching interests focus on process design and separation unit operations.

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Vito L. Punzi Villanova University

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Vito Punzi is a Professor of Chemical Engineering, having joined the Villanova faculty in 1980. His current teaching interests are in the chemical engineering sciences courses Introduction to Chemical Processes and Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics I, along with the elective courses Industrial Liquid and Solid Waste Treatment, and Catholic Social Teaching for Engineers. He is also currently a Visiting Professor in the Villanova Center for Peace and Justice Education.

One of his ongoing research areas is the theoretical and applied aspects of traditional chemical engineering separation processes that can be used in drinking water, industrial wastewater, and hazardous waste treatment, including applications such as:
• the use of sustainable (non-chemical) additives derived shellfish wastes for the removal by coagulation of nanoparticulate matter
• the use of sustainable (no-chemical) additives for the purification and disinfection of potential drinking water sources.
• the removal of microplastics from surface water and groundwater that could potentially be used as a drinking water source.

Another of his ongoing research areas is in Socially Responsible Engineering, an area in which he seeks to provide motivation, guidance, and instruction to engineers of good will who believe social responsibility and social justice are important parts of an engineering vocation.

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In 2015 the United Nations reported that clean drinking water is unavailable to 1.8 billion people worldwide and adopted access to clean water and sanitation as one of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Water contamination can include multiple issues, including suspended solids, turbidity, dissolved organics, and heavy metals, as well as bacteria or other pathogens. The authors have addressed several aspects of this broad problem in their research and provided the flexibility to pursue student-initiated investigations. Projects have addressed the effectiveness of conventional chemical coagulants, such as alum, for the removal of emerging solid contaminants, including nanoparticles and microplastics. These contaminants can be generated from consumer product waste and create new obstacles for water treatment in both conventional applications and in underdeveloped areas of the world. Although traditional chemical treatment for coagulation is well-established, disadvantages such as chemical cost and availability, the production of toxic sludge, and the acidification of treated water make the application in underdeveloped areas challenging. Accordingly, another project theme has been to evaluate the performance of coagulants derived from natural products. One promising candidate is moringa oleifera (MO) seed which is obtained from a plant which is available in many areas with limited clean drinking water sources. MO provides a water-soluble protein that coagulates typical metal oxide and suspended material found in surface water. Student interest has also driven new projects involving the adsorption of heavy metals by MO seed solids and the bactericidal activity of MO. These water treatment research projects have linked the goals of humanitarian engineering with experimental research, engaged students through the pursuit of their passions, considered the wider context of technical solutions, and enabled partnerships with other service-learning initiatives. This research also provides an opportunity for the integration of interdisciplinary educational experiences that combine liberal arts, science, and engineering aspects of an undergraduate engineering education.

Skaf, D. W., & Punzi, V. L. (2021, April), Integration of the Humanities, Science, and Engineering Aspects of an Undergraduate Engineering Research Experience Paper presented at Middle Atlantic ASEE Section Spring 2021 Conference, Virtual . 10.18260/1-2--36306

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