NDSU graduate student winds $5000 scholarship
Research at local water treatment plant gets engineering student recognized for building betterworld
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 13:08
Turning on the faucet, filling up a glass and drinking clean water; this is a reality for most because of infrastructure built by civil engineers.
“That just kind of blows me away. You don’t think about the whole process behind what it takes to get you clean water,” said Leslee Storlie, an NDSU graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in environmental engineering.
The American Water Works Association partners with organizations that can sponsor scholarships for students who actively research to improve water infrastructure and technology.
Storlie won a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by MWH Global, a consulting, engineering and construction firm of wet infrastructure because of her research at the Moorhead Water Treatment Plant, said Nicole Lang, the communications manager of MWH.
“Leslee demonstrated a superb work ethic, strong academic achievements and a commitment to addressing the water issues facing society,” Lang said. “We believe her future work will result in her building a better world.”
Storlie researches the formation of bromate, a compound formed when ozone is used to disinfect water for consumption at some water treatment plants including MWTP. In large doses bromate could be a carcinogen.
“My research project is to determine when [bromate] forms, why it’s forming and to try and minimize how much is being formed. It’s pretty interesting and an up-and-coming topic in the drinking water field,” Storlie said.
Storlie applied for the scholarship last January when her supervisor at the Moorhead Water Treatment Plant handed it to her and suggested she “give it a try.”
“At first I was kind of nervous about it,” Storlie said. “It’s a national scholarship, not just a state scholarship or something local. It’s the whole United States.”
The scholarship was competitive and required a resume, three letters of recommendation and a thorough explanation of her educational plans and research methods.
The AWWA has several sponsors for scholarships. Storlie says 10 to 12 students were accepted across the U.S., each with a different company sponsoring him or her.
“Every applicant had something to do with safe drinking water.” Storlie said. “Why your research is relevant to the industry and why it would help.”
Storlie said in her application that she was excited to be involved in an industry that makes such an impact on every person, every day and that she thinks green options will open up more possibilities in the field.
“My career goals include designing systems that will make life easier and safer for all kinds of people, but at the same time do less harm to the environment,” Storlie wrote in her scholarship application.
The scholarship winners were awarded the scholarship last June at the Water Industry Luncheon at the ACE Conference in Dallas, Texas.
“We got to shake the hand of the president American Water Association and the water practice leader of MWH Global,” Storlie said. “And I got a nice plaque and took a nice picture…no speech or anything, but I had to walk across the stage in front of a lot of people. That was nerve-wracking.”
The $5,000 scholarship can be used to offset costs for equipment, lab materials, textbooks or anything that would help with the student’s research project.
Storlie earned a B.S. in civil engineering in May 2011 and will complete a Master’s degree in environmental engineering, a sub discipline of civil engineering this May.
As an undergrad she was involved in the NDSU chapter of American Water Works Association/Water Environment Federation and served as the Vice-President in the 2011-2012 school year.
One of their projects was “Expanding Your Horizons,” a program that brings middle school girls to NDSU and teaches them basic classes in math and science to get them interested in these fields at a younger age.
Storlie said her interest in civil engineering was first sparked in a similar program. As a high school student she attended a weeklong engineering session for women interested in engineering at Michigan Technological University.
The field of engineering does not have many women in it Storlie explained, though she has noticed more women now than when she arrived at NDSU six years ago.
Though there has been an effort to get women interested in these fields, Storlie said that it is important to keep conservation and science in the curriculum for all students because there is so much to learn in this booming industry.
“The worth of water is not quite known yet,” Storlie said. “We have a lot of water, but the technology to use that water is not quite there or takes a lot of money…it needs a lot more research from students like me and young professionals to make the water treatment possible and safe.”
Another project Storlie did with the AWWA/WEF was an attempt to design a system to recycle water used in hydraulic “fracking” for oil.
“A lot of water is wasted in that process,” Storlie said. “We looked at a project to recover that used water and then clean it and then reuse it instead of just disposing of it. That’s definitely a huge up-and-coming topic especially with western North Dakota being so close.”
These projects and student organizations helped Storlie be a candidate for the scholarship. She encourages students to get involved and let experiences lead your future.
“Don’t be afraid to get involved, get your feet wet,” Storlie said. “When you fill out scholarships you need that kind of stuff to build a nice resume and build a portrait of yourself for where you want to go and where you’ve been.”