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Environment

Respect for the environment must be at the core of all engineering decisions in the future.

Our Environment has limited resources

How to deal with climate change, waste, sustainable food, land management and safeguard water supplies are real and pressing challenges to the global environment.

Water is essential for life. We use it to drink, produce our food and to keep us clean and healthy.

Yet, it is often a wasted resource. Demand for a limited amount of water continues to grow. Pollution threatens supplies.

Challenges: Safe drinking, climate change, reusing wastewater, improved water testing, sustainability, pollution

Profile picture of Oriana, a McMaster PhD Chemical Engineering student

Meet one of our world changers

Oriana is a Mississauga native whose parents own a flower shop. She excelled at math and science in high school and was inspired to consider engineering by her Grade 12 Physics teacher who attended McMaster for civil engineering. Oriana completed her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from McMaster University in 2016. She is a recipient of the Dean’s Excellence Engineering Doctoral Awards given to high-achieving students.

“I really like the problem solving aspect of engineering. There are so many interesting problems in the world and such a wide range of solutions to be considered. When I started to consider future career paths, I heard a lot about how engineering degrees give you a strong background in problem solving. Throughout my time at McMaster, I’ve found that to be true. I have built an extremely versatile skill set and I feel confident approaching many different types of problems.”

“I first came to McMaster for the Engineering & Science Olympics when I was in Grade 12, and I liked the campus right away. I applied to other schools, but I knew I wanted to come to McMaster for various reasons. I liked the idea of a general first year, because I wasn’t sure exactly what discipline would suit me best. It was also close to home and I really connected with the campus when I visited.”

Oriana is part of a research group that uses cellulose nanocrystals, which are a renewable resource extracted from plants and trees, to make a wide variety of products from cosmetics to household paint to batteries. Oriana is working with an oil and gas company to replace expensive and non-renewable polymers frequently used in drilling and completions fluids with biodegradable and renewable products.

“I love being a graduate student because I have the opportunity to be working on something new and exciting. My work is also very independent and open ended. As I’m working through my project, if there’s one specific area that I’m particularly interested in, I have the option to focus more on that or take it on as a side project. The reason I’m interested in cellulose nanocrystals specifically is because they can improve many different products and they are a renewable material. It's amazing to me that cellulose nanocrystals come from trees and that we can do so many different things with them.”

“I did an internship in Calgary and worked for ConocoPhillips, which is an oil and gas exploration company. I spent 16 months in my role, which allowed me to make significant contributions to the company and to truly get a feel for the company culture and the kind of work I could expect to do if I went into industry post-graduation.”

“I did an internship in Calgary and worked for ConocoPhillips, which is an oil and gas exploration company. I spent 16 months in my role, which allowed me to make significant contributions to the company and to truly get a feel for the company culture and the kind of work I could expect to do if I went into industry post-graduation.”

Oriana, PhD student, Chemical Engineering

Eco Engineers

Sarah Dickson, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering

Seeking and Securing Clean Water

Finding clean and abundant drinking water is a challenge around the world.

Sarah Dickson, an associate civil engineering professor, is working to turn the tide on this through the use of emerging technologies. By using a global database and smartphones, Sarah intends to help smaller, marginalized regions around the globe pinpoint the location of and secure access to water supplies. The program director for Water Without Borders, Dickson’s research focuses on the input, transport and fate of contaminants in groundwater systems.

Learn how Sarah's making a difference Water Without Borders
Emily Cranston, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering

Emily Cranston, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering

To Emily Cranston, trees are more than just bark, limbs and leaves.

They contain renewal resources that can be harnessed into valuable materials for use in several objects, such as biodegradable packaging and paints, batteries and even bone implants. Emily’s team works specifically with a material called nanocellulose, which are tiny particles or fibres extracted from trees. Emily is trying to learn from nature to create sustainable processes and technologies for the future.

Learn how Emily's making a difference
David Latulippe, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering

Waste Not, Want Not

Bill Gates amazed the world in early 2015 by drinking sewer sludge that had been transformed into safe water.

McMaster’s David Latulippe has similar plans to turn sludge into something useful. The focus of the assistant chemical engineering professor’s research is turning wastewater into energy – specifically in the form of biogas. The advanced treatment strategies that are being developed through his research will allow future cities to turn their wastewater facilities into revenue generators, as they will be producing more energy than is needed to run them. This type of research is multifaceted and serves environmental and alternative energy fields.

Learn how David's making a difference
Neslihan Dogan, Assistant Professor, Materials Science Engineering

Neslihan Dogan, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

The demand for higher quality steel at lower environmental cost has pushed steelmakers to improve their processes.

Automotive manufacturers require stronger, thinner steel for lighter vehicles to meet tougher greenhouse gas emission regulations and passenger safety goals. As a major carbon emitter, the industry faces pressure to reduce emissions as awareness of climate change increases. Researchers Neslihan Dogan and Ken Coley are currently exploring ways to optimize the steel refining process and suggest new techniques to produce new generation steel to help steelmakers address some of the issues in environmental and economic sustainability such as energy intensity, material efficiency and alternative production methods. Dogan explores high temperature chemical reactions in steel making process using modelling and experimental techniques.

Learn how Neslihan's making a difference

Want to help the environment? #ThinkEngineering