Environmental Engineering Graduate Student Recognized for Water Contamination Research

Hanoz Santoke receives ARCS fellowship to study pharmaceuticals in the water supply

Hanoz Santoke, a third-year environmental engineering Ph.D. student, received the a prestigious 2008-2009 ARCS Foundation Fellowship from the Orange County chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation, Inc., in recognition of his outstanding research in pharmaceutical compounds in water supplies.

Pharmaceutical compounds have received considerable attention from the environmental community as recently-emerging pollutants due to their detection in both surface and ground water.  Techniques known as advanced oxidation processes are under development to remove these contaminants from wastewater, as currently utilized treatment methods have proven ineffective.

Santoke’s research studies the behavior of various pharmaceutical compounds when reacted with hydroxyl radicals and hydrated electrons, which are the reactive species utilized in advanced oxidation processes.  Studying this two-part reaction process attempts to clarify the destruction mechanism of the compound by identifying the intermediates – or the compounds formed before the final product – that are created during the degradation process of these compounds in water, and calculate the bimolecular reaction rate constants of the degradation. 

This information may eventually be used to help design advanced oxidation/reduction processes, which have recently received considerable attention as alternatives to conventional water treatment methods.  Advanced oxidation/reduction processes utilize a chemical such as ozone or hydrogen peroxide, and radiation or another source of energy, to form hydroxyl radicals as oxidizing agents and electrons as reducing agents.  Several studies have suggested that advanced oxidation/reduction processes are much more effective and economical to remove certain types of pollutants from wastewater than conventional water treatment processes.

The results of Santoke’s research will be used to design an advanced oxidation/reduction process to remove these pharmaceutical compounds from water.  The information on the intermediates formed during the reaction with hydroxyl radicals will help identify the compound present in the water to determine the best way to remove the compound and ensure that toxic or otherwise undesirable substances are not left behind.  The reaction rate constants will be necessary to ensure wastewater is treated adequately and in the most economically-efficient manner possible.

The data collected and the methods devised will also help industry avoid polluting natural bodies of water, and will assist public water utilities in treating wastewater before discharge, resulting in a and safer environment with less pollutants. 

Santoke, who currently studies under the advisement of William Cooper, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Urban Water Research Center, and Weihua Song, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at UC Irvine, holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UCLA, where he received a Boelter Scholarship from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and was active in the university chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, serving as webmaster and car competition coordinator. 

The ARCS organization is dedicated to helping the brightest U.S. science and engineering students by providing annual fellowship awards of $10,000 for two years to superior doctoral candidates based on their academic, research and leadership accomplishments. 

To learn more about ARCS, visit http://www.arcsfoundation.org/OrangeCounty.

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