Educational Activities

A primary goal of this Partnership for Education and Research in Membrane Nanotechnologies (PERMEANT) is to provide students with an education and research experience that results in them acquiring the knowledge, skills and perspective to conduct state-of-the-art research in a global context and to work collaboratively with researchers in other countries to accomplish their research objectives. To accomplish this, we have developed a research model in which students
work with a mentoring team consisting of both US and foreign faculty members to develop their hypotheses and strategies based on capabilities present within the Partnership, and then work with both foreign and US students and faculty members to accomplish these objectives. We apply a flexible international travel model to this approach, in which students design their international visits according to the needs of their research. We have thus chosen to first describe the research focus of each student, and provide a brief summary of their activities over the past year with an emphasis on the international aspects of the project. In the subsequent subsections this section, we describe project-wide activities, and those of the Investigator team.
The more traditional descriptions of the research activities (experiments, modeling, etc.) are provided, albeit briefly, in the Findings section.

November 2008-October 2010

Nathan Danforth (MSU undergraduate student) is working with Wenqian Shan, Adam Rogensues, and Chris Crock on developing nanocomposite membranes with hierarchical filler nanoparticles. His contribution is in the nanoparticle preparation, which is a multi-step procedure that the PIRE research team is establishing. Nathan has learned a range of important techniques in nanoparticle preparation and characterization.

Wenqian Shan's work focuses on the separation of oil-water dispersions using a hybrid hydrocyclone-membrane filtration system. The project is co-funded by NSF PIRE and by industry (MI Swaco). In August 2010, Shan and Tarabara filed an application for a provisional patent “ Water and oil separation system ” through the MSU Technologies office.

Sophie Carrell worked with Wenqian Shan on the development of prototype superhydrophobic membranes. Sophie learned techniques of chemical modification of membrane surfaces. She will be joinig the Department of Chemical Engineering at the North Carolina State University as a graduate student this Fall.

Sebastian Grajales made a three-week (May 25, 2010-June 12, 2010) research trip to Karl Franzens Universität, Graz , Austria to perform experiments to supplement results he obtained during his previous visit to Graz.

Seth Hogg works at the reserach facilties at the Karl Franzens Universität, Graz , Austria during his three-week visit (August 1, 2010-August 24, 2010).

Tom Davis (MSU undergraduate student) is working with Wenqian Shan on membrane-based treatment of produced water generated from wellheads at offshore platforms during oil and gas production. This project received complementary support from MI Swaco via an NSF I/UCRC project led by MSU and the University of Tulsa.

Zachary Drack (MSU high school research intern) also participated in HSHSP and performed 8-weeks of research on transport of ions through nanopores. He presented the results of his research at the HSHSP meeting.

Sebastian Grajales made a one-week (August 9, 2009-August 15, 2009) research trip to Karl Franzens Universität, Graz , Austria and performed current switch-off measurements at this unique facility.

Michael Hausinger (University of Michigan undergraduate student) worked with Wenqian over the summer of 2009 on the molecular weight analysis of humic acids. Michael leaned fractionation and dynamic light scattering techniques.

Twinkle Contractor (MSU high school research intern) was associated with PERMEANT as a participant in the High School Honors Science/Mathematics/Engineering (HSHSP) program. HSHSP is an enrichment program that is held on the MSU campus for eight weeks every summer. Its purpose is “to provide students from across the U.S. and territories who are entering 11 th or 12 th grade the opportunity to engage in intensive research work”. Adam Rogensues, a PERMEANT graduate student, trained and supervised Twinkle's work in the laboratory under the guidance of Tarabara. Twinkle presented results of her research at the final HSHSP meeting. Twinkle is now an undergraduate student at Cornell.

November 2007-October 2008

David Dotzauer (graduate student, MSU): David is creating nanoparticle-based catalytic membranes for wet-air oxidation of pollutants in collaboration with Sylvain Miachon of l’Institut de Recherches de la Catalyze et l’environnement de Lyon. This project was initiated at David’s request in 2007. In the past year he synthesized nanoparticle-modified membranes using a layer-by-layer technique and characterized these materials using a variety of techniques including scanning electron microscopy. During his initial 6-week visit to Lyon in October/November 2007, he demonstrated that these membranes show remarkable activity in wet-air oxidation of formic acid and phenol. He is currently in the middle of another 6-week visit to compare the properties of his catalyst with those prepared by the Lyon group, which should result in an upcoming manuscript. His first-generation catalysts are already more active than the catalysts previously prepared by the Lyon group. As a part of his international education, he recently gave a talk at the International Water Association Regional Conference in Moscow. He also participated in the PERMEANT group meeting at Duke University, where he gave an oral presentation.

Sebastian Grajales (newly recruited graduate student, MSU): Sebastian joined the project this past year to work on antibacterial surfaces in collaboration with Viktoria Konavolova (UKMA).  During Dr. Konavolova’s visit to MSU, Sebastian began modifying membranes with antibacterial polyelectrolytes. He has learned to work with bacteria and is now testing a new antibacterial compound developed by the Kiev group. We anticipate that he will visit Kiev to continue this research in the coming year.

Zachary Hendren (graduate student, Duke): Zach spent the period of June 15-July 5 meeting with his co-advisor Cabassud in Toulouse (INSA) learning methods for characterizing membrane distillation facilities, and met with researchers at the CEREGE. His project, “Evaluation of membrane distillation membranes for water reuse and desalination,” has investigated grafting several materials for ceramic membrane modification to produce a hydrophobic ceramic suitable for membrane distillation. In addition he has developed a direct contact membrane distillation bench-scale module for the testing of membranes. He also developed a membrane characterization methodology and characterized several membranes via SEM, AFM, and FTIR.
Zachary presented his work at the 2008 Water Reuse Research Conference in Denver, Colorado May 5-6. Presentation Title: Modification of nano-structured ceramic membranes for direct contact membrane distillation.

Matt Hotze (graduate student, Duke): Continued his research in collaboration with our partners at the CEREGE, aided by three visits of approximately 10 days each. The first (June 15-July 5) involved visits to meet with researchers and co-advisors at both the CEREGE and TOULOUSE (UPS). This visit included research presentations and an international workshop host in Toulouse where Hotze also presented his research. The second visit (October 26-November 5) to the CEREGE took place with the primary goal of allowing Hotze to work with co-advisor Bottero and update him on his progress. A third visit (Jan 31-Feb 10, 2008) to the CEREGE and related facilities at France Commissariat a l’energie atomique (CEA) in Saclay (near Paris) was undertaken to work on advanced light scattering techniques for materials characterization.

Lu Ouyang (graduate student, MSU): Lu is developing catalytic hollow fibers in collaboration with the group of Pierre Aimar at Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse. During a seven-week stay in Europe, she synthesized these membranes and learned hollow fiber technology from the Aimar group. She also examined the ability of these membranes to reduce nitrophenol in a test reaction. As part of the technology exchange, she was able to build a hollow-fiber test system at MSU, and postdoc Jorge Macanás visited MSU to further investigate these catalytic hollow fibers with us. The fibers are very attractive for creating high surface area gas-liquid-catalyst interfaces for reactions such as dehydrohalogenation of pollutants. During her stay in Europe, Lu also attended the Nanomempro course Nanostructured Material and Membrane Synthesis and Characterization in Zaragoza, Spain, and she presented a poster. Notably, she won a fellowship to the conference that paid her tuition and lodging costs. She also participated in the PERMEANT group meeting at Duke University, where she gave an oral presentation.

Christine Robichaud (graduate student, Duke): Christine is developing ways to adequately assess the environmental and health risks of nanomaterials used in materials such as future membrane technologies.  During the past year she has focused on evaluating the exposure component of risk looking at the case of TiO2 and seeking an upper bound for the exposure potential of these nanomaterials. Next steps will expand on this source information; compiling a more detailed set of parameters describing nano-TiO2 and other nanomaterials while aiding a more complete understanding of what governs nanomaterial fate and transport. She met with her co-advisor Jean-Yves Bottero during a visit by Bottero to Duke in Fall 2007, and will follow-up with a visit to the CEREGE in Fall 2008.

Adam Rogensues (graduate student, MSU): Adam continues to work on the incorporation of antiscalant polyelectrolytes into the PEM structure with the hopes of achieving an antifouling membrane, and has also been partially involved in the fabrication of novel nanoparticles-enabled membranes. In June of 2008, he traveled to UKMA where he worked with Andrii Gorobets in order to learn the art of fabricating a specific type of membrane he commonly makes in his laboratory. As a part of this trip, he also traveled to Patra, Greece for a two-week seminar Nanostructured Material and Membrane Modeling and Simulation that was organized by the European NanoMemPro network. Typical attendants were graduate students from a wide variety of European counties, including Ukraine, Croatia, Slovenia, Portugal, Poland, and many more.

Wenqian Shan (graduate student, MSU): Wenqian worked under the guidance of Dr Bacchin of Université Paul Sabatier (UPS) in Toulouse during last year’s France visit, studying mechanisms of solute transport in polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM) nanofiltration membranes and reasons for the observed trend of salt rejection as a function of transmembrane pressure. Wenqian conducted colloidal retention experiments and applied blocking law theory to analyze the fouling mechanism for PEM membranes. In addition, Wenqian worked with Dr Causserand (UPS) on understanding how hypochlorite affects the aging of unmodified and PEM-coated hollow fiber membranes. By comparatively analyzing the mechanical strength and water permeability of fibers before and after they had been exposed to hypochlorite, it was found that the extent of membrane fiber degradation depended on the composition of the polyelectrolyte coatings. During the visit, Wenqian also attended the Nanomempro course Nanostructured Material and Membrane Synthesis and Characterization in Zaragoza, Spain, where she presented a poster. In recognition of her research progress, Wenqian received 2008 summer research fellowship from MSU College of Engineering.

Julian Taurozzi (graduate student, MSU): Julian is developing and characterizing Al/Ge imogolite nanotube-enabled UF membranes, in collaboration with Jerome Rose of CEREGE, with the aim of producing membranes with improved hydraulic and mechanical properties. During his visit to CEREGE (France) last Fall, Julian developed a synthetic route for the incorporation of imogolite nantoubes into the matrix of polymeric, integrally skinned asymmetric polysulfone UF membranes. He characterized the resulting membranes in terms of hydraulic and morphological properties. He also explored additional synthetic alternatives to produce nanotubes with magnetic properties, under the motivation of their potential incorporation into polymeric matrices to obtain adaptive membranes. As a part of this vist, Julian also travelled to Zaragoza, Spain to attend the Nanomempro course Nanostructured Material and Membrane Synthesis and Characterization, where he presented a poster. He also took first place in the state-wide (Michigan) Fresh Ideas American Water Works Association (AWWA) poster competition in February 2008 which led to support to attend and present at the 2008 AWWA National Conference in Atlanta, and received a summer fellowship from MSU College of Engineering in recognition of his research progress

Brett Fair (undergraduate student, Duke): Brett examined oxidation and reduction characteristics of nanomaterials under dark conditions as they related to toxicity. Brett worked in the Wiesner labs on fullerene aggregate chemistry utilizing superoxide detections assays. He traveled to CEREGE in France (June 1- June 21) to work with Jerome Rose and Melanie Auffan on related experiments with titanium dioxide. 

Philip Strauss (undergraduate student, MSU): Phil is working with Sebastian on developing and testing antibacterial membranes. His work will be limited to MSU because he is graduating soon, but he learned important techniques in synthesis, working with bacteria, and examining membranes.

Lauren Wessel (undergraduate student, Duke): Lauren joined the Wiesner Research Group to research nanoparticle characteristics. She is participating as a “Pratt Fellow,” a program that engages selected Duke undergraduates in research over a three semester period. As part of her work, Lauren spent two months (June-July 2008) working on her research at the CEREGE in Aix-en Provence, where she was mentored by Jerome Rose.

Hari Arul (high school student, MSU): Hari Arul has been associated with PERMEANT as an HSHSP participant. HSHSP is an enrichment program that is held on the MSU campus for eight weeks every summer. Its purpose is “to provide students from across the U.S. and territories who are entering 11th or 12th grade the opportunity to engage in intensive research work”. Taurozzi, a PERMEANT graduate student, trained and supervised Hari’s work in the laboratory under the guidance of Tarabara. Hari presented results of his research at the final HSHSP meeting and submitted their research reports to the Siemens and Intel Science Competitions. Now an undergraduate student at Stanford, Hari and Julian co-authored a research paper that was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Membrane Sciences. Hari also placed third in the 2008 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair.


November 2005-October 2006

This summer, 4 graduate students performed water-filtration research for six weeks at two different sites, Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France and the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine. These three-week visits at each site, which are shorter than those envisioned in the future, are enabling students to achieve promising results and are generating enthusiasm for the collaborative projects. Moreover, the shorter visits allowed us to assess conditions and possibilities at each collaborative site.Two undergraduate students, Adam Rogensues and Randy Benedict, also performed research for 4 weeks at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy . Their travel was facilitated by a grant from the North American Membrane Society (NAMS), which was awarded to Tarabara and Bruening for this purpose. Adam Rogensues also received a MSU College of Engineering undergraduate summer research internship for summer research and he participated in the study abroad programs in Volgograd and Kyiv. To ensure success in these endeavors and initiate collaborations, Professors Bruening, Tarabara, and Voice also traveled to each site to present seminars, discuss projects with collaborators and help students in beginning new projects. After the summer experience, confidential electronic survey was performed to assess the productivity of this part of the program and to suggest methods for improvement.

In addition to research, which is the primary focus of international visits, students are learning more about science in the countries they visit. Programs aimed at this purpose included trips to the Museum of Chernobyl (Kyiv), the Water Information Center (Kyiv) and the museum Cité de Science (Paris), and lectures on funding opportunities in the partner countries. Of particular interest to this project, the Cité de Science museum contains an exhibit on water purification (L'Eau Pour Tous).

Students and faculty have also attended conferences and given presentations on their work. NAMS provided a travel grant for Srividhya Kidambi to attend their national meeting in Chicago , at which she was awarded a $500 prize in the student poster competition. Her poster described research in which modification of membranes with Ag nanoparticles yielded antibacterial surfaces that may decrease biofouling. In recognition of his early research successes, Julian Taurozzi was awarded McCowen Fellowship by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Because the grant began in October 2005, recruitment of graduate students to the program was limited to those already at Michigan State University . Recruitment of undergraduate students was performed by distributing an electronic brochure to students in chemistry and engineering. Future opportunities for participation in the project, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, will focus on broadly-advertised recruitment emphasizing attracting applicants from underrepresented groups. In this regard, we have established a linkage with the High School Honors Science/Mathematics/Engineering Program which brings in highly talented high school students, the majority of whom are minorities, from across the country to MSU for a summer research experience. In the Summer 2006, Aubrey Huynh , a high school research intern, worked in Dr. Tarabara's group on the project "The effect of humic substances and their ozonation by-products on the performance of polymeric nanofiltration membranes".

Curriculum development efforts included a special topics course in surface characterization and analysis, taught by Bruening, a new graduate level course “Membrane Separations in Chemical and Environmental Engineering” by Tarabara, and a new interdisciplinary course in the Environmental Science and Policy Program entitled “Physical, Chemical and Biological Processes of the Environment,” which was co-taught by Voice. Building on the successful MSU Study Abroad program in Volgograd (Russia), we are initiating a similar, but environmentally-focused program in Kyiv. This summer, an independent study course on membrane separations was offered, as well as courses in Ukrainian culture and history, taught by faculty from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.


For more information, please contact: Thomas Voice or Volodymyr Tarabara,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA 48824
Phone: +1 517 353 9718. Fax: +1 517 355 0250. Email: