The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Lau Receives $1,000 Sustainability Grant to Teach the Role of Nanotechnology in Achieving Water Sustainability

Boris Lau

Boris Lau

Boris Lau of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department was one of 10 campus academics who each received a $1,000 Sustainability Curriculum Fellowship (SCF), a year-long interdisciplinary program sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office and others to develop or augment courses with sustainability-related topics. As Lau explains about how he will use the fellowship, “My overarching goal is to enable students to understand the important roles of nanoscale science and technology in achieving water sustainability.” See News Office article

Faculty who receive the SCF attend a monthly meeting in which they receive guidance through library resources and assistance with course design or redesign. They also learn about campus sustainability policies, projects, and other advancements. Since 2013, the program has supported 30 faculty members from across 18 disciplines.

According to Lau, “Water sustainability ensures that an adequate water supply of good quality is maintained for the entire population of this planet.”

With zero discharge as the ultimate objective of sustainable urban water management, says Lau, the water industry will increasingly rely on high-performance nano-enabled water monitoring, treatment, and reuse systems that are affordable, easy to operate, and capable of targeting a wide range of contaminants.

“My plan is to redesign course assignments and lecture materials for this course that I taught in Spring 2014 and 2015,” says Lau. “I plan to further leverage the library resources available at UMass so that students can better evaluate and propose sustainable ways to synthesize and manage nanomaterials.”

Lau’s course will involve some of the key concepts of water sustainability, including matching water quality with appropriate use, and solving water quality challenges through prevention and treatment.

Lau says that “The knowledge gained in these areas would support sustainable decision making by guiding policy makers to establish water quality standards for different use requirements.”

Innovative uses of nanotechnologies are necessary to meet current and future water demands. Accordingly, Lau says that his students will learn about how nanomaterial fabrication and characterization can enable them to develop nano-technologies for pollution control.

“The plan is to redesign course assignments: for example, literature-review projects that summarize the current state of knowledge of specific natural/engineered nanomaterials,” says Lau. “Students will utilize library databases (e.g., Web of Science) to identify relevant resources and summarize the literature on a specific topic of their choice.”

Lau says that he will use the $1,000 fellowship to pursue various professional development activities. For instance, this grant could help to cover part of the expenses in attending the annual conference of the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO). SNO provides a professional society forum to advance knowledge in all aspects of sustainable nanotechnology, including both applications and implications.

“I could benefit from the discussions and exchange of ideas with experts in this field,” concludes Lau.

The SCF is supported by the Chancellor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, UMass Amherst Libraries, the Campus Sustainability Manager, the Institute for Teaching Excellence and Faculty Development, and sustainability-engaged faculty. (September 2016)