Researcher is finding new ways to rid water of tiny contaminants

Graduate Engineer of the Month has found a way to break down PFAS, the 'forever chemical'

Wael Abdelraheem February 2020 Graduate Engineer of the Month

Wael Abdelraheem. Photos and video/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.

Wael Abdelraheem, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering, has been named the February 2020 Graduate Engineer of the Month by the College of Engineering and Applied Science

Abdelraheem has focused his field of study on water treatment, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and master’s in analytical chemistry from Sohag University in his native Egypt. He said he chose the University of Cincinnati because of the stellar reputation of the environmental engineering program. He first came to UC as a visiting scholar from 2013-2015 and returned as a Ph.D. student in 2016 to work in the research group helmed by Dionysios Dionysiou, professor of environmental engineering. 

He has dedicated himself to improving water quality because he recognizes the value of clean water to the environment and to people.

“I realized the world needs more environmentalists on this kind of topic to solve environmental problems and make life better,” he said.

Wael Abdelraheem works in his lab.

Wael Abdelraheem's research focuses on removing contaminants that end up in our water, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other hazardous chemicals. Photo/Corrie Mayer/CEAS Marketing.

Abdelraheem’s Ph.D. research involves using advanced oxidation/reduction processes to destroy tiny contaminants – such as pharmaceuticals, ingredients in personal care products, pesticides, and plasticizers – that can end up in water. He has also synthesized a new iron-based catalyst that breaks down the highly challenging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in water. PFAS are often referred to as the “forever chemical,” as they never break down in the environment.

“Wael’s work has a significant importance and profound implications in the search for sustainable methods that can provide safer water in developed and developing countries using renewable sources of energy,” Dionysiou said.

Abdelraheem has published 13 papers on advanced water treatment technologies and has given 21 presentations at professional meetings and conferences. He has served as an editorial assistant for the Chemical Engineering Journal and has provided 14 peer reviews for various journals. He is a member of six professional societies in the fields of chemistry and engineering and has received several awards, most recently from the American Chemical Society in 2019 and the American Water Works Association in 2018 and 2019.

He has taught at the college level for nearly a decade in Egypt, an experience he enjoyed. 

“I loved being in contact with students, helping them to develop their career, helping them to understand environmental issues and helping them in building their future through setting goals and achieving them,” Abdelraheem said. 

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