Come out to learn about the work that some of our stellar current graduate students are doing, and hear about their experiences in ESE.
Sanjana Mendu is a 2nd year graduate student studying Systems and Information Engineering at UVA. Her research is in the area of mobile health (mHealth), machine learning, human-computer interaction, and ubiquitous computing. As a member of the Sensing Systems for Health Lab led by Dr. Laura Barnes, she has worked on a range of projects in this area ranging from developing a culturally-tailored virtual agent for health education to identifying passive digital biomarkers of social anxiety. Her current work focuses on exploring a generalized approach for analyzing digital text communication data to infer mental health outcomes.
As social media platforms have grown to form the foundation of modern digital communication, digital text message datasets that document interpersonal exchanges on these platforms have proliferated. These exchanges comprise a rich corpus of social context data, which can provide insight into how mental health challenges manifest in social contexts. To effectively identify and analyze key underlying social contexts and related mental health factors from digital text communication data, we employ a generalized framework for extracting features from digital text communication datasets that leverages methodological approaches from diverse fields. Our preliminary results show that the features drawn from this framework are effective in highlighting individual differences in communication patterns with relation to mental health.
Charles is a 5th year environmental engineering PhD student from Lake Forest, Illinois. He studied environmental chemistry at Bates College before completing a master’s in environmental engineering at UVa. He worked as a groundwater consultant in Madison, Wisconsin for two years before returning to Charlottesville to pursue a PhD in Jim Smith’s research group.
Non-point source pollution, such as stormwater runoff, has become a leading threat to water resources in the US and other highly developed countries. Sudden discharges of stormwater from paved surfaces results in flooding, erosion, sewer overflows, and pollution into receiving waters. Improved stormwater management is needed to protect water resources. Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) mimics natural landscape hydrology by slowing, spreading, and infiltrating stormwater runoff before discharging it to receiving waters. GSI has been shown to effectively protect waterways from many detrimental effects of urban stormwater, and is increasing designed into urban developments, but several knowledge gaps exist in its performance. Studies have documented the performance of individual GSI, but very few have compared multiple designs side by side in the same location and climate. Furthermore, the treatment of deicing road salt by GSI is unknown. In 2018, approximately 25 million metric tons of salt was used in the US for highway deicing and when that salt runs off from transportation surfaces, it can impair receiving water quality. GSI is not designed to treat road salt and there is very limited data on GSI salt removal. Another important contributor to water quality impairment in the US, and especially in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, is nitrate. There are many potential nitrate removal mechanisms in GSI designs, but denitrification removes nitrate from water permanently, making it the most desirable. The extent of denitrification happening in GSI is currently unknown, but a novel analytical method using stable nitrogen isotopes may be able to track denitrification in stormwater. Our research is focused on improving urban stormwater infrastructure to protect water resources by monitoring the performance of different GSI designs along Lorton Road, in Fairfax County, VA. My research objectives include, comparing the general performance of different GSI designs side by side, determining the ability of GSI to buffer receiving waters from salt application, and tracking denitrification within GSI.
Sadegh Eghdami & Valerie Michel
Sadegh and Valerie are Ph.D. students at ESE working in Environmental Systems Engineering Research Group. Having a background in mathematical modeling and quantitative analysis, Sadegh is interested in economic growth and development as well as the political economy of economic policies. He is working on policy analysis for vulnerable households in coastal areas as a research fellowship from the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI).
Valerie, on the other hand, has a background in chemical and environmental engineering and is working on the Threshold Analysis of Community Retreat in Urban, Coastal Regions within the same fellowship. The main objective of their research is to understand and model the moving decision of households from environmentally risky areas to safer inland regions. Valerie is trying to introduce a threshold model that is capable of explaining and predicting the moving decisions of households and communities through a risk analysis. Sadegh is modeling the housing market and the intervention policies a government might pursue to get the optimum outcomes in terms of minimizing the danger and future costs of natural disasters.