Prestigious NSF award advances UK researcher’s low-cost water treatment work

Along the rivers that snake across the Commonwealth, you’ll find a University of Kentucky researcher taking samples to study the health of the water flowing through the state.

Tiffany Messer, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, a joint program between the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, studies ways to improve water quality in rural and urban areas.

For her innovative approach, Messer is the recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

The honor is one of the “most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate education and research within the context of their organization’s mission,” according to the NSF.

“This is a unique opportunity for me to be able to connect both teaching and research aspects of my work and really be able to give back to the Commonwealth versus just studying a particular component of interest. Instead, we can connect what we find in research with communities that can apply our findings to everyday solutions,” said Messer.

The award supports Messer with $530,000 over five years for her research on cost-effective wetland treatment systems and how they can filter contaminants, like nitrate, insecticides and antibiotics, from water runoff. She is using state-of-the-art tracers and automated sensing technology to determine how these contaminants impact the ecosystem.

Chelsea Colley

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