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Assistant Professor Xinwei Mao receives the NSF CAREER Award


Dr. K.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized research excellence in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University by awarding Assistant Professor Xinwei Mao a Faculty Early CAREER Development grant (NSF Award #2238195). The NSF CAREER grant is to support early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Dr. Mao is a leading member of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology, leading the Center's Phosphorus research initiatives. She teaches Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Design (CIV 320) and Introduction to Environmental Biotechnology (CIV 426) in the department of Civil Engineering and advises several graduate students. Mao earned her PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. K.Mao’s CAREER research is to explore the development and validation of the next generation of biofiltration systems for nitrogen (N) removal from onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS). Millions of households in the United States and worldwide rely on onsite systems for wastewater treatment and disposal. Conventional OWTS consist typically of septic tanks connected to leach fields to enable the transport and disposal of liquid effluents in the surrounding soils via networks of drainage pipes. OWTS are predominantly designed to provide primary treatment during which organic wastes and suspended solids in household sewage settle to the bottom of septic tanks where they are partially degraded by microorganisms. Because OWTS are not designed to effectively remove nutrients, the liquid effluents of septic tanks are among the largest sources of nitrogen (N) pollution for shallow groundwater aquifers as they leak into the surrounding subsurface soils.

Dr. K.With this grant, Dr. Mao will explore the development of novel soil biofilters for N removal based on a hybrid physical/chemical and biological treatment process that integrates biochar sorbents with anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox) microbiomes. The proposed research builds upon the results of previous investigations that have established that anammox microbiomes play a critical role in the conversion of N compounds to dinitrogen (N2) gas in soils, wetlands, and marine/freshwater sediments.

The successful completion of this project will benefit society through the generation of new fundamental knowledge to support the development and deployment of more efficient and sustainable solutions to manage and mitigate N pollution from households and other facilities that are not connected to centralized wastewater treatment systems. Additional benefits to society will be achieved through student education and training including the mentoring of one graduate student and one undergraduate student at Stony Brook University.