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CE Doctoral Student Earns EREF Scholarship

Monday, November 7, 2016

Gomathy Radhakrishna Iyer, a doctoral student in the Civil Engineering Department, has earned the first-ever Evergreen Surety Bond Scholarship from the Environmental Research & Education Foundation.

Radhakrishna Iyer was one of 12 graduate students across the United States and Canada who were awarded scholarships by EREF in 2016.

Gomathy Rahakrishna IyerReceiving the scholarship is important to her because she can focus on her research, graduate and have an impact when she returns to her native India.

“I come from a developing country where there are very few engineered landfills, only dump sites. This scholarship is very meaningful to me, because I don’t have to worry about how to support myself and pay for school. Instead, I can focus on my research and earn my degree so that when I return home, I’ll be well-prepared to make a difference for the future,” she said.

Radhakrishna Iyer’s project entitled, “Development of Landfill Biocovers from Yardwaste to Oxidize Methane Escaping Landfill,” primarily focuses on developing landfill biocovers to oxidize surface methane emissions and developing a model based on the California Landfill Methane Inventory Model for methane oxidation potential.

Biocovers – landfill covers made of biodegradable materials such as compost and yard waste instead of the traditional clay or geomembrane – can help break down methane into carbon dioxide, which contributes to atmospheric temperature increases 28 to 36 times less than methane. They have been researched since the 1990s, but none have been developed yet that can capture 100 percent of the methane that escapes from engineered landfills instead of being captured and converted to electricity. Today’s biocovers can capture about 90 percent, and Iyer hopes to discover a way to reach the final threshold.

“Gomathy’s work addresses the important issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills in an innovative way: by using wastes themselves to adsorb and transform escaping emissions,” said Associate Professor Melanie Sattler, Radhakrishna Iyer’s advisor and the Syed Qasim Endowed Professor in Civil Engineering.

“The Evergreen Surety Bond Scholarship is a very competitive and prestigious national scholarship, with many other winners coming from Tier 1 schools. I am very proud of her!”

Gomathy’s work, as well as that of Sattler and Civil Engineering Professor Sahadat Hossain and his Solid Waste Institute for Sustainability, is an example of the research that the College of Engineering is doing in support of sustainable urban communities, one of the pillars of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact

EREF scholarships recognize graduate students pursuing excellence in solid waste management research and education. Doctoral scholarships are awarded up to $14,400 per year and can be extended for up to three years. EREF is a 501(c)3 charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve.