Cusick wins NSF CAREER award

9/1/2022 12:21:12 PM

CEE assistant professor Ro Cusick has been awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award to advance their research related to recovering phosphorous-based minerals from municipal wastewater. 

Harmful algal blooms caused by the release of excess phosphorous from agricultural runoff and wastewater treatment plants pose a major threat to water security in the Great Lakes region. Seeking to limit harmful environmental impacts on while still meeting the demand for phosphorous fertilizers, some wastewater treatment plants have installed technology to recover struvite, a mineral that can be used as a slow-release fertilizer. Unfortunately, these new technologies are poorly understood and experience frequent upsets which disrupt the plants' ability to meet permit limitations for phosphorus discharge.

With this award, Cusick will work to advance the fundamental understanding of struvite crystals growth and recovery in wastewater, and develop modeling tools that could be used to tune and control the growth, precipitation to enhance both recovery of phosphorous fertilizers and wastewater treatment plant phosphorus removal efficiency. The award will also support the development of an outdoor science camp for LGBTQIA+ high school students in central Illinois.

CAREER awards, administered under the Faculty Early Career Development Program, are the NSF’s most prestigious form of support and recognition for junior faculty who “exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”