Research Opportunities

  Area: Environmental Sciences and Engineering

 General inquiries: Prof. Elodie Passeport, elodie.passeport@utoronto.ca

Context:

Urban areas in Canada and beyond are in need of new “green” infrastructures. Bioretention cells are a type of stormwater infiltration systems to enable Low Impact Development. These cells are designed for the rapid infiltration of stormwater and buffering of peak flows, and also to reduce contaminant loadings to receiving surface waters.

We have received three years of funding through an NSERC Strategic grant that brings together three researchers at University of Toronto, public agencies and private companies. We are now looking for 6 graduate students to fill in the positions outlined below. Students can start the positions in May or September 2016.

In order to visit UofT and meet with Profs. Passeport, Drake, or Diamond, domestic students are encouraged to apply to the Graduate Research Days by January 7th, 2016 in either:

– Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (for Profs. Passeport and Diamond):

http://www.chem-eng.utoronto.ca/graduate-studies/graduate-research-days-2016/

– Civil Engineering (for Profs Passeport and Drake):

http://civil.engineering.utoronto.ca/graduate-programs/

PhD Position #1

TopicCharacterization of bioretention cell hydrologic processes as a function of chemical and climatic stresses

Description: Maintaining a high infiltration capacity is critical to ensure the proper long-term functioning of bioretention cells to intercept and reduce stormwater runoff volumes. In this research project, the student will evaluate bioretention cells hydrological processes via field and laboratory experiments. The student will be in charge of installing field monitoring equipment (e.g., weirs, conductivity probes, snow and rainfall depth measurements) and collecting and analyzing data from approximately 3 research sites. Occasionally, the student will also measure the in situ infiltration capacity of bioretention cells and characterize plant density and diversity. Finally, the student will collect data on catchment characteristics and vehicle traffic. The project will be conducted in close collaboration with other students and field technicians.

Desired qualifications: ability to work in a team, communicate clearly, has taken classes in hydrology, low impact development, transport phenomena, statistics; Background in Civil Engineering or equivalent. Experience using with mapping and sketching (e.g. ArcGIS, Google Sketchup), hydrologic (e.g. EPA-SWMM, OTTHYMO, InfoWorks) and statistical softwar (e.g. R, SPSS) is desirable. 

Main contact: Prof. Jennifer Drake, Civil Engineering, jenn.drake@utoronto.ca

Students may enroll in Department of Civil Engineering (deadline February 1, 2016).

 

PhD Position #2

TopicRole of retention and degradation processes for hydrocarbons and trace contaminant removal in bioretention cells

Description: The biogeochemical processes that govern contaminant removal in bioretention cells are not well known. In particular, little is known about trace organic contaminants such as hydrocarbons and other emerging contaminants. Therefore, the student will conduct field monitoring and laboratory experiments to better characterize the role of retention and degradation processes in bioretention cells to eliminate selected trace organic contaminants. Passive water integrative samplers will be deployed in the field and extracted in the lab, to quantify trace organic contaminant mass removal between the inlet and outlet. With partners at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the student will also conduct target and non-target analysis to identify and quantify parent and degradation products. Adsorption, desorption, and biodegradation experiments will be conducted in the lab under different environmental conditions to decipher the role of each process in bioretention cells. This information will be crucial to help design more efficient bioretention cells.

Desired qualifications: contaminant biogeochemical processes, process engineering, analytical chemistry; Background in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering. 

Main contact: Prof. Elodie Passeport, Civil Engineering / Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, elodie.passeport@utoronto.ca

Students may enroll in Department of Civil Engineering (deadline February 1, 2016), or Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (deadline February 1, 2016).

 

PhD Position #3

TopicModeling of hydrocarbon and trace contaminant fate in bioretention cells

Description: What happens to contaminants in a bioretention cell? What mass is retained versus degraded? In this project, the student will develop a general multimedia (air, soil, water) mass balance model to estimate the fate of selected chemical contaminants in bioretention cells, quantitatively evaluate bioretention effectiveness, characterize the role of retention vs. degradation processes, and predict performance under a range of conditions. To support the modeling work, the student will also measure contaminant levels in air and water using passive air and water samplers followed by chemical analysis by means of gas chromatographic methods. Thus, the student will acquire skills and knowledge in modelling and environmental sampling and analysis.

Desired qualifications: ability to work in a team, communicate clearly, has taken classes in mass balance modelling, hydrogeology, transport phenomena in porous media, analytical chemistry, environmental sciences.  Background in Chemical Engineering or equivalent.

Students may enroll in Department of Earth Sciences (deadline January 17, 2016), Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (deadline February 1, 2016), or Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences (DPES) at Scarborough (deadline January 15, 2016).

Main contact: Prof. Miriam Diamond, Earth Sciences, miriam.diamond@utoronto.ca

 

PhD Position #4

TopicOptimization of bioretention cell design for effective hydrologic and treatment performance

Description: Bioretention cell efficiency at removing pollutants is highly variable. This is partly due to designs that are not optimized to remove simultaneously a variety of chemicals with different physical and chemical properties. In this project the student will evaluate new design configurations for infiltration – treatment systems aiming at addressing both issues of water quantity and quality simultaneously. A chemical engineering “unit process” approach, involving series of treatment units arranged vertically, each dedicated to a specific removal objective, will be tested. The order of the treatment units will be carefully selected by considering how changes resulting from one process in one unit can affect the mechanisms at play in the next unit. Lab experimentation will be conducted to test different designs. After optimizing the design, benchtop prototypes will be tested by conducting static mesocosm and dynamic column experiments. 

Desired qualifications: ability to work in a team, communicates clearly, environmental engineering, process engineering; Background in Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, or equivalent.

Main contact: Prof. Elodie Passeport, Civil Engineering / Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry,elodie.passeport@utoronto.ca

Students may enroll in Department of Civil Engineering (deadline February 1, 2016), or Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (deadline February 1, 2016).

 

MASc Position #1

TopicDetailed characterization of bioretention cell soil porosity evolution as a function of hydrologic stresses

Description: The primary function of bioretention cells is to maintain a high infiltration capacity. Changes in infiltration rates and soil structure over time and under extreme weather conditions are not well characterized. In addition, the identification of the dominant water flow paths and their evolution since construction are key to characterize and predict contaminant removal. The successful applicant will conduct X-ray tomography measurements on undisturbed bioretention cell soil cores collected in the field to evaluate the distribution, size, and tortuosity of soil pores. This research will help understand the evolution of bioretention cell soil structure over time.

Desired qualifications: hydrogeology, soil processes, water and contaminant transport in saturated and unsaturated media; Background in Civil Engineering or equivalent. Experience using with hydrologic (e.g. MODFLOW, EPA-SWMM, OTTHYMO, InfoWorks) and statistical software (e.g. R, SPSS) is desirable.

Main contact: Prof. Jennifer Drake, Civil Engineering, jenn.drake@utoronto.ca

Students may enroll in Department of Civil Engineering (deadline February 1, 2016).

 

MASc Position #2

TopicDevelopment of an analytical method for Compound Specific Isotope Analysis of hydrocarbons in bioretention cells

Description: The removal of contaminants in bioretention cells, typically characterized as a percent concentration or mass decrease between the inlet and outlet of the system, does not reveal if removal is due to temporary non-degradative processes such as adsorption, or permanent degradative processes such as biodegradation. Provided degradation products are not more toxic than parent chemicals, the latter is the preferred removal pathway. Compound Specific Isotope Analysis (CSIA), whereby changes in the isotope signature (δ13C) of contaminants are determined, has the potential to make this distinction, though it has never been applied to bioretention cells. In this project, working with selected hydrocarbons and organic contaminants, the student will characterize the stable carbon isotopic composition of chemical standards and develop an online CSIA method by gas chromatography – combustion – isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Finally, samples from field and lab experiments from other students will be analyzed for their stable carbon isotope signatures. This research will represent an innovative application of CSIA to identify reaction mechanisms in bioretention cells.

Desired qualifications: analytical chemistry, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, isotope chemistry; Background in Chemistry, Geology, or Chemical Engineering or equivalent.

Main contact: Prof. Elodie Passeport, Civil Engineering / Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, elodie.passeport@utoronto.ca

Students may enroll in Department of Civil Engineering (deadline February 1, 2016), or Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry (deadline February 1, 2016).