Wednesday, March 13, 2019

When it rains in Iowa and elsewhere, stormwater runoff causes contaminants to enter lakes and rivers, affecting aquatic life and drinking-water supplies. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized the need for more research and education on green stormwater treatment by awarding a University of Iowa professor a prestigious NSF CAREER Award.

Gregory LeFevre, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and a researcher at the UI’s IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering research center, will use the award to discover new, inexpensive approaches for pollutant removal in green stormwater infrastructure that can be easy to maintain.

“I am both very honored to receive this award from NSF and excited about the possibilities that this work holds for improving sustainable storm water infrastructure for the future,” says LeFevre. “Emerging contaminants in stormwater are a major water-quality concern throughout the country, and significant research is needed to transform stormwater from a ‘waste’ to a valuable water resource—and green stormwater infrastructure can be part of the solution with improved understanding.” 

LeFevre’s proposed research focuses on transforming emerging contaminants using bacteria, plants, fungi, and innovative filtration materials in green stormwater practices, such as rain gardens.

In addition to conducting novel research, LeFevre will use the award to integrate his research with an educational program designed to engage the public on water quality and inspire and train the next generation of scientists and engineers. Some of his planned activities include developing teaching modules focused on water science and engineering for eighth-grade students, hosting hands-on STEM education workshops for teachers, and educating the public on stormwater-quality topics at STEM outreach events.

“I am very thankful for the wonderful students in my research group, my colleagues in the environmental engineering program, and the support of IIHR in my research,” LeFevre says.

LeFevre’s $500,000 project is titled “Toward Resilient Stormwater Quality Practices: Biotransformation for Sustained Removal of Emerging Contaminants” and will be funded through 2024.

The CAREER award is the most prestigious NSF honor for early-career faculty who demonstrate the potential to serve as role models in research and education. These highly competitive grants, presented to engineers and scientists across the country, help establish a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research in their department and university.