PROTECT Represented at RISE2015

Six members of PROTECT presented at this year’s Research, Innovation, and Scholarship Expo. RISE is an annual exhibit of exciting new research at Northeastern University that can be translated into real-world applications. Below are descriptions of their posters.


Xue Yu’s work focused on exploring the fractal behaviors of groundwater level fluctuations in various aquifers of Puerto Rico.  The fractal analysis methods used in this study include detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) and wavelet transform modulus maxima (WTMM).  The work is important because through fractal analysis, the intrinsic properties governing water level fluctuations could be revealed.  We found there is a general elevational effect with more fractality in shallower wells.  In addition, the fractal behaviors of the groundwater level fluctuations in the karst aquifers are also heavily influenced by local hydrogeological conditions.

Ljiljana Rajic’s research is focused on degradation of trichloroethylene (TCE) in groundwater by an electrochemical flow-through reactor [Project 5]. Her presentation at RISE 2015 explained the influence of humic substances on electrochemical reduction of TCE in groundwater.

Shirin Hojabri’s research developed a theoretical model which includes chemical reactions, water auto-ionization, and electrolysis to describe pH changes.  Modeling of the reactions that occur during the electrochemical groundwater remediation, which is a green and sustainable process, is important for adjusting the system for the full scale application (Project 5).  Her work is focused on describing the pH behavior during electrochemical processes since it is one of the important parameter that controls the reactions and influences the efficiency of electrochemical remediation.  She found a good correlation between the theoretical results and observed data from an experimental study on electrochemical remediation.

Reza Ghasemizadeh’s research is focused on surface water-groundwater interactions, GIS analysis, mapping and modeling, and fate and transport of contaminants.  He and his colleagues use PROTECT database to advance the current understanding of the impact of Superfund sites on public health.  At RISE 2015, he presented results of his large scale groundwater investigations and hydrogeological data analysis, as well as simulation of aquifer vulnerability and long-lasting contamination in karst environments.  His research helps PROTECT investigators in making correlations between environmental pollution and preterm birth issue in Puerto Rico.

Noushin Fallahpour‘s presentation demonstrates how other co-existing organic and inorganic materials can affect TCE remediation process.  Her work focuses on electrochemical dechlorination of TCE.  The experiments displayed that the efficiency of iron anode on TCE removal is influenced by the presence of humic acid and strong oxidants such as dichromate, selenate, and nitrate.  The layer of sediments on iron anode prevents electron transfer reaction and lessen dechlorination rate.  She also found that this system is capable to remove these contaminants as a mixture while the remediation rate of TCE is significantly low (around 40%) compared to the control experiment.  Although the limestone block is a simulation of karst aquifer, it should be pointed out that the results mentioned here need to be tested in field conditions as different factors may affect the system significantly.  Broad research is still needed to identify and address these issues.

Yuanyuan Yao, a graduate student in Project 3, presented a poster focusing on her new method that provides the first broad assessment of the nonpolar urine sulfateome. This category of chemicals is a good place to look for Superfund chemicals that potentially contribute to preterm birth, since the body tends to conjugate  nonpolar (cell-entering) chemicals, often after metabolic activation, which are threats. Based on testing 6 urines from pregnant women in Puerto Rico, over 1100 sulfate conjugates were detected. 



PROTECT trainees at RISE (from left to right Harshi Weerasinghe, Xue Yu, Reza Gasemizadeh, Shirin Hojabri, Noushin Fallahpour, Ljiljana Rajic)