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Graduate student receives prestigious fellowship to study effects of sediment on water quality


BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 19, 2005 – As part of the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is providing 100 graduate fellowships for doctoral students in environmentally related fields of study. The EPA has awarded one of these fellowships to Lee Bryant, doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech.

Bryant is the daughter of David and Gay Bryant of Knoxville, Tenn.

Bryant’s research focuses on sediment oxygen demand, which governs oxygen depletion in lakes and reservoirs and is largely controlled by oxygen availability and microbial degradation of organic matter. Bryant plans to study how sediment composition and dissolved oxygen concentrations of bottom waters affect sediment oxygen demand.

“Significant oxygen depletion can lead to decreased water quality and increased drinking water treatment costs,” said Bryant. “Understanding the impacts that biogeochemical processes have on sediments and the overlying water column is crucial for optimizing water quality and enhancing our ability to manage lakes and reservoirs.”

Bryant will receive funding from the EPA for three years for her doctoral research—up to $37,000 per year for tuition and fees, a monthly stipend and other expenses.

John Little, professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering, is Bryant’s advisor. His program area is environmental and water resources engineering, which is concerned primarily with the areas of water and wastewater treatment, water quality modeling and assessment, soil and ground water pollution, air resources engineering, and solid and hazardous waste management.

The EPA initiated the STAR fellowship program in 1995. Approximately 1,000 STAR fellowships have been awarded since the inception of the program. The purpose of the fellowship program is to encourage promising students to obtain advanced degrees and pursue careers in environmentally related fields. The STAR fellowship program has proven to be beneficial to both the public and private sectors by providing a steady stream of well-trained environmental specialists to meet environmental challenges facing society. It has also provided new environmental research in physical, biological and health sciences, engineering and social science.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college’s 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a “hands-on, minds-on” approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.