What We Do

The Aquatic Innovations in Materials Science (AIMS) Lab conducts research at the intersection of environmental engineering and materials science to realize creative solutions to pressing urban water supply challenges.

Traditionally, environmental engineers have viewed the urban water supply in a linear approach where drinking water sources (e.g., rain, surface and groundwater) are used, treated and then discharged.

A more sustainable approach is to view waste streams in a circular economy model where resources are extracted and reused to maximize from a given material or process. Applied in this context, a circular approach to wastewater means potable reuse following a series of advanced treatment processes.

Unfortunately, the presence of industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, urban-use pesticides, and other contaminants, and the uncertainty of contaminant transformation during treatment pose a threat to human and environmental health.

New technologies and approaches are needed to remove toxic contaminants and recover additional value from wastewater to help realize these water reuse strategies towards a more circular wastewater approach.

Our research interests bridge materials science and surface chemistry with traditional water quality techniques to investigate ways to increase urban water supply sustainability. Research directions in the AIMS lab will range from identifying mechanisms of target species-substrate interactions to inform new materials design, to large-scale materials synthesis for field-level water treatment in more applied urban water systems.

More specifically, our research aims to:

  • Develop low-cost materials for selective removal of toxic and persistent trace compounds in wastewater
  • Apply new media for urban stormwater contaminant removal and investigate opportunities for applying media in the urban landscape
  • Modify conventional adsorbents to increase nutrient capture and recovery from waste streams
  • Leverage the catalytic properties of substrates to facilitate transformation of organic contaminants

What We’re About

In addition to our research which seeks to protect human and environmental health, we are also committed to learning how to become anti-racist, how to perform our research in an atmosphere that is welcoming and inclusive, and about how engineers have contributed to urban pollution and societal inequities.

Here are the books that we’ve read so far in our anti-racism book club. We meet every week to discuss as a group how our lived experiences and intersectional identities relate to the lessons learned in the books, and to our research and daily activities. The book club emerged from a conversation our group had last year during #ShutDownSTEM.

Our group members are also involved in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) initiatives within the department. Ray served on the JEDI faculty committee from 2019 – 2021 and worked with colleagues to institute the first faculty diversity training. Students within the group also serve on the departmental graduate student advisory board.