Nov. 19: DENIN adds seminar to fall series
Jeanne VanBriesen

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1:07 p.m., Oct. 25, 2010----The Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) has announced an addition to its fall seminar series lineup.

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Jeanne M. VanBriesen, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the Water QUEST (Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems) Center at Carnegie Mellon University will present a seminar at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19, in Room 102 of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

VanBriesen's talk is entitled, “Lumped Terms and Surrogates: PCBs, DBPs, Indicator Organisms, and the Search for Understanding Speciation to Improve Decision Making.” Her presentation is cosponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Science, engineering and policymaking in the environmental field rely on understanding complex, multiphase behaviors of physical, chemical and biological interactions across multiple scales of time and space. Because many decisions made for the environment cannot be delayed (i.e., we all need to drink some water today), they must often be made based on insufficient or incomplete information.

Scientists and engineers through the years have adapted to this state by creating surrogates or lumped terms to represent complex mixtures of chemical or biological contaminants in the environment.

With improved understanding of the full details of systems represented by surrogates, questions of the suitability of the surrogate begin, and a revision of the paradigm for study may result.

However, long after this transformation takes place in research communities, public policy may continue to be based on outdated surrogates due to misunderstandings of the value of complete analysis or due to time or cost considerations.

VanBriesen's talk will present research on surrogates, their constituents, and the challenges associated with decision making with fragmented information across several case studies (PCBs in sediment and DBPs in drinking water). A final case study will highlight the utility of a new surrogate for a water security application.

VanBriesen received her bachelor of science degree in secondary education with a concentration in chemistry and her master of science degree and doctorate in civil engineering from Northwestern University. She served on the National Research Council study on water quality in southwestern Pennsylvania.

VanBriesen has won numerous awards including the 2007 Pennsylvania Water Environment Association Professional Research Award, the 2009 American Society of Civil Engineering Pittsburgh Chapter Professor of the Year, and the 2009 McGraw-Hill/ AEESP Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science. In 2009, she was selected for the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program.

The seminar will be streamed live for those unable to attend the program in person and will be available on DENIN's iTunes U site after the talk.

Article by Beth Chajes