Environmental Engineering Doctoral Student Receives Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship

Resources to be used for research in studying surface water quality

Aug. 26, 2005 -- Interdisciplinary environmental engineering doctoral student, Cristiane Queiroz Surbeck, has been awarded a prestigious three-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship, for research in surface water quality by experimenting with storm water discharge and urban runoff in the Santa Ana River and its tributaries.

Surbeck is only the fourth UC Irvine student to receive this fellowship, and the first student from the Samueli School of Engineering.  She has been awarded financial support for all university associated fees, a research expense allowance and a monthly stipend.  Her program will begin this fall and span over the course of three years.

Researching surface water quality for the past two years, Surbeck has been focusing on how the Santa Ana River watershed can meet its quality standards, mandated by law.  She said that her research analyzes how certain pollutants enter the water, and then investigates the pollutant transport within that body of water.

Surbeck said that urban runoff has been recognized as a major source of pollutants to “sensitive” receiving waters, notable examples being nearby coastal waters in Huntington and Newport Beaches.

“The occurrence of pollution is complicated because it happens within the entire watershed, where the movement of surface water is influenced by a complex network of flood-control, water reclamation and wastewater treatment infrastructure,” she explained.

She said that her work at the Santa Ana River is very labor-intensive because her research depends on the collection of a large number of river water samples, establishing whether the standards set forth by California’s EPA are realistic and achievable, and if so, assisting to reach the standards.

“These standards are set so that the water is in a ‘healthy’ state when discharged to the ocean or other bodies of water.  Everyone is affected by surface water quality.  For example, most of the Santa Ana River water is treated for drinking water or used for recreation and fishing,” Surbeck said.

Surbeck is also working on a project that examines how the discharge from waste water treatment plants affects river water quality for pathogens.  She said that in some rivers there is still degradation downstream of treated waste water the discharge points, and wants to explore further to find out why this is happening.

Surbeck said her advisor, Stanley Grant, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department, has been very supportive of her research and has helped her obtain funding resources over the past two years.

“I am honored to have been awarded this fellowship that will help me complete my research, and am thankful for the continued support and encouragement from my advisor, Dr. Grant,” she said.