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Shane Snyder and Agilent Partner on Water Safety and Sustainability

Marla Smith-Nilson Lifts Burden for Communities Lacking Clean Water



Faculty-industry collaboration aims to increase public trust in water reuse.

AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES honored professor of chemical and environmental engineering Shane Snyder with a 2017 Agilent Thought Leader Award, which includes funding plus microarray equipment for Snyder and students working in his lab. With the new equipment, researchers will be able to expand methods for identifying and removing contaminants and further develop technologies for converting wastewater to drinking water.

School of Thought—Shane Snyder, right, receives his thought leader award, presented by, from left, Agilent’s Craig Marvin, Tori Richmond and Leo Brizuela.

“Without question, Agilent equipment has made a meaningful difference in our ability to better characterize environmental quality,” said Snyder.

While interest in recycling municipal wastewater for potable water is growing, many byproducts of the treatment process remain unidentified, Snyder said. “Considering the magnitude of chemical contaminants possible in wastewater, and the nearly infinite number of potential products created during water treatment, the only way forward for comprehensive monitoring is a combined approach of rapid bioassays for evaluating toxicity and advanced, nontargeted analysis for elucidating structure.”

Civil engineering alumna is delivering clean water and expanding opportunities in impoverished countries around the world. MARLA SMITH-NILSON, who received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1991, founded Water1st International to make water accessible to more than 165,000 people in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia and Honduras. “We intentionally work in only four countries, so we can really get to know the communities and our partner agencies,” she said. “By supporting local, on-the-ground organizations with a proven track record of implementing water and sanitation projects, we can provide water projects that last.”

Well Engineered—Marla Smith-Nilson delivers a civil engineering Homecoming talk about her work providing sustainable supplies of clean water to thousands in water-stressed regions.

In impoverished countries, millions of women walk for hours every day carrying empty containers to water sources and then walk back home with 40-pound loads. Smith-Nilson accompanied Mari Tuji of Kelecho Gerbi, Ethiopia, one morning as the young mother set out before dawn with her three children on a four-mile trek to reach a small, polluted river. The water always made the children ill, but they had no choice. Working with a local group, Water1st built a new water system in Kelecho Gerbi that Tuji helps to operate.

Jinhong Zhang Invents Concrete Substitute Using Power Plant Waste

Lighter, stronger and less expensive than concrete, Acrete uses three times as much waste and converts it into useful building material.


ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR of mining and geological engineering Jinhong Zhang has developed a new substitute for concrete that has a number of advantages over traditional Portland cement. The new material is lighter, stronger and less expensive to produce than concrete, and uses three times as much fly ash. Coal-fired power plants in the United States produce about 130 million tons of fly ash each year, much of which ends up in mounds and landfills where wind and water can disperse it.




The new material and the company formed to produce it are called Acrete, a combination of “Arizona” and “concrete.” Zhang says Acrete will “reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cement production and be a novel construction material for a new era of sustainable development.” Tech Launch Arizona, the UA office that commercializes inventions stemming from research, brought together Zhang and entrepreneur Abraham Jalbout to create the startup company to develop the product and bring it to market.

Solid Investment—This UA-created concrete substitute may pave the way to a more sustainable future.

This story, by Paul Tumarkin, originally appeared in UANews.

Arizona Engineer | Spring 2017  
Arizona Engineer | Spring 2017