2022 Maeder graduate fellows advance research on sustainable meats and clean drinking water

Written by
Scott Lyon
Scott Lyon, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Sept. 12, 2022

Shannon Hoffman and Joanna Schneider, both graduate students in chemical and biological engineering, will receive one year of funding supported by the Paul A. Maeder ’75 Fund for Innovation in Energy and the Environment. 

Hoffman is involved in research that uses light rather than methanol -- a potent greenhouse gas -- in the development of sustainable meats. Scientists have begun cultivating animal proteins in the lab without the use of animals. These cultivated meats are typically made using specially engineered yeast. But even the best yeast strains today still feed on substantial amounts of methanol, meaning the process still relies on fossil fuels. 

“If we can find a way to produce meat and avoid the problems associated with livestock, that would make a huge difference, especially as the world looks for ways to address climate change,” Hoffman said.

Schneider is developing a technique to target, degrade and remove industrial waste contaminants from groundwater aquifers using specific nanoparticle mixtures. Chemical pollutants such as chlorinated solvents, which are discharged by industrial processes and improper waste disposal, pose an especially difficult problem in sensitive environments. Such chemicals don’t dissolve easily and get stuck in the pores between rock surfaces. Clean water initiatives need tools to dislodge the pollutants from these tiny, underground spaces, which is where the nanoparticles come in.

“Nanoparticles are a more viable long-term solution to cleaning contaminated water,” Schneider said.

Her work as a Maeder fellow will combine experimental visualization, computational tools and new approaches to engineer particles that safely spread through the aquifers as they clean them.

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