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Civil Engineering Grad Student Takes First Place for Best Oral Presentation

September 11, 2009

Patricia Jones has had a lot of practice communicating; as an environmental consultant, as a mother and as a graduate student seeking a master’s degree in Civil Engineering. She came to UNM because the Civil Engineering Department has a strong reputation for working well with non-traditional students, allowing her to work toward her master’s degree without forcing her to complete another bachelor’s degree as a prequisite.

Jones recently presented her research at the 2009 Rocky Mountain Water Environment Federal/American Water Works Association Annual Student Conference, where she took first place for Best Oral Presentation. She is also presenting this month at the Rocky Mountain section meeting of the American Water Works Association and will present in October at a national conference.

Jones’ research involves seasonal changes in the process operations of wastewater plants along the Rio Grande. She spent the last year frequently sampling bioreactors at eight plants to compare biomass densities and settling characteristics. She wanted to know whether these properties changed as the seasons changed.

She has determined that biomass density does indeed change with the seasons in systems she studied, and that these variations help to explain changes in settling rates. These results are important because they govern performance and could help advise operators how they might better control their systems for improved effluent quality and energy savings.

As part of her research she is recommending process changes that have been demonstrated to make settling of the solids more efficient, and noting the greater efficiency of the activated sludge plants. Jones plans to defend her thesis in mid-October, and hopes to return to her consulting career next year.