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Student Research Projects

WRRI Funds graduate student researchers across the state working to address a broad range of topics in water resources.

Explore Funded Student Projects

The table below contains a list of funded student projects dating back to 2018. Use the search bar to search particular topics, researchers, or key words. If a final report is available, it has been provided as a hyperlink within the title column. For a list of projects funded prior to 2018, or to view a final report for one of these projects, contact John Fear (

Project TitleResearcherAdvisorYear startedKey TermsIn the News
Identification of Polyphosphate Accumulating Organisms in an NC Wastewater Treatment Plant and Factors that Affect Their Performance in Enhanced Biological Phosphorus RemovalAutumn RobinsonErin Field2024wastewater treatment; phosphorous removal from WRRI
Assessing Perceptions of Salt Marsh in the Residential Landscape in Central Coastal North CarolinaMary-Margaret McKinneyRachel Gittman and Cynthia Grace-McCaskey2024climate change; salt marshes; floodingfrom WRRI
What are the Odds? Probabilistic Flood Hazard Assessment for New Bern, North CarolinaJohn (Jack) BaerAntonia Sebastian2024flooding; New Bern; climate change; flood hazard modelsfrom WRRI
Understanding Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses Related to Climate Change in Ocracoke, North CarolinaBevin Hardy2024climate change; Ocracoke; community resiliencefrom WRRI
Assessment and Mitigation of Microplastic Pollution in Treated Wastewater and Biosolids: A Focus on Primary and Secondary SolidsChideraa NdubuisiOlya Keen2024microplastics; wastewater treatment; public healthfrom WRRI
A Novel Approach to PFAS Quantification and Attribution in Freshwater Resources: Indicator Compounds in a Stormwater and Wastewater Dominated StreamJonathan (Jonny) Behrens, Duke University Emily Bernhardt2023PFAS; Durham; urban streamsfrom WRRI
Assessing the Impacts of Increased Salinity on Bald Cypress Growth in Forested Freshwater Tidal Wetlands along Smith Creek, NCKendra Devereux, UNC Wilmington Monica Rother and Andrea D. Hawkes2023Ghost forest; climate change; saltwater intrusion; tidal wetlands; Wilmingtonfrom WRRI
Seasonality and Precipitation Effects on Nitrogen Processing in Urban Green InfrastructureColin Finlay, East Carolina University Ariane Peralta and Michael O'Driscoll2023green infrastructure; stormwater; nitrogen; Greenvillefrom WRRI
Stormwater Diversion, Storage, and Treatment by Beaver-Enhanced Wetlands in Piedmont Urban WatershedsChris Norcross, NC State UniversityKarl Wegmann2023stormwater; urban wetlands; beavers; Walnut Creek; Raleighfrom WRRI
Leaky Leachate: PFAS Concentrations in Landfill-Impacted Communities in North CarolinaCharlotte Robbins, UNC Chapel Hill Courtney Woods2023PFAS; landfills; Environmental Justicefrom WRRI
Development of an Anaerobic Digestion Minimal Microbial Community and Community Resistance and Resilience in Response to PerturbationsSavanna Smith, NC State University Francis de los Reyes III2023wastewater treatment; anaerobic digestionfrom WRRI
Advancing Understanding of Flood Water Quality Distributions and Drivers through Statistical ModelingEmine Fidan, NC State UniversityNatalie Nelson2022flooding; surface water quality; Hurricane Florencefrom NC State BAE
Determining the Relative Contribution of Nuisance Flooding to the Risk Profiles of Estuarine Communities under Current and Future Climate ConditionsLauren Grimley, UNC Chapel HillAntonia Sebastian2022flooding; climate change; sea level rise;from WRRI
PFAS Removal from Natural Water through Electrodeionization Equipped with Novel PFAS Selective ResinsHolly Haflich, UNC Chapel HillOrlando Coronell2022PFAS removal; drinking water treatmentfrom WRRI
Assessing Water Quality in the Upper Cape Fear Aquifer, a Potential Alternate Drinking Water Source for Chemours-Area ResidentsTiffany VanDerwerker, NC State UniversityDavid Genereux2022PFAS contamination; drinking water; well water; groundwaterfrom WRRI
Evaluating Oyster Reef Restoration Configurations for Optimizing Ecological Success Wave Attenuation Against the Threat of Sea Level Rise and Boat WakesGeorgette Tso, East Carolina UniversitySiddharth Narayan2022oyster reef restoration; climate changefrom WRRI
Assessment of Pesticide Stability in Water and Analysis of Pesticide Degradates in Private Wells in North CarolinaNancy Alexander, NC State UniversityDetlef Knappe2021pesticides; well waterfrom WRRI
Assessing Temporal Variability of Antibiotic-Resistant E. Coli in Surface Water Near Animal Feeding Operations
Tanvir Pasha, NC State UniversityAngela Harris2021E. coli; surface water; Cape Fear River; Neuse River; CAFOsfrom WRRI
Understanding the Flood Mitigation Benefits of Buyouts: A Hydrologic Assessment of Property Acquisition in North Carolina WatershedsHunter Quintal, UNC Chapel HillAntonia Sebastian2021flooding; natural infrastructure; planning; climate changefrom WRRI
High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) as a Diagnostic Tool to Assist Groundwater Monitoring Recommendations from Local Health Departments to Private Well UsersHayden Rudd, NC State UniversityElizabeth Nichols2021well water; Wake County; water qualityfrom WRRI
Degradation of Antibiotic Resistance Genes Using Hydroxyl Radical and Sulphate RadicalAdeola Sorinolu, UNC CharlotteMariya Munir2021antibiotic resistance; public health; water treatmentfrom WRRI
Viability of Fungal Bioremediation for Treatment of Persistent Pesticides in North Carolina WatersLeah Weaver, NC State UniversityTarek Aziz2021emerging contaminants; STEM educationfrom WRRI
Targeted Field Study of Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance Genes in North Carolina Wastewater Impacted Watersheds
Sara Kamanmalek, UNC CharlotteJacelyn Rice-Boayue2021wastewater; GIS; antibiotic pollutionfrom ScienceDirect
Co-Treatment of Food Processing Wastewater with Municipal Treated WastewaterJonae Wood, NC A&T UniversityNiroj Aryal2021wastewater treatmentfrom WRRI
Validating Positive Openness Raster Data for Indicating Locations of Stream bed Incision and Stream bank Erosion in the Mine Creek Watershed, Raleigh, N.C.Layla El-Khoury, NC State UniversityBarbara Doll2021stream bank erosion; Mine Creek watershedfrom WRRI
Unraveling the Effects of Grain Size and Moisture Content on the Linearity of Cohesive Soil Erosion: Implications for Predicting Streambank RetreatAlexis Swanson, NC State UniversityCelso Castro-Bolinaga2021erosion; stormwaterfrom WRRI
Participatory Asset and Problem Mapping: A Citizen Science Approach for Documenting Post-Disaster Flooding and Priorities in Coastal North CarolinaOlivia Vila, NC State UniversityBethany Cutts2019Environmental Justice; natural disaster recovery; citizen sciencefrom WRRI
Spatiotemporal Reconstruction of Historical Swine CAFO Spread in North Carolina and Connections to Water QualityLise Montefiore, NC State UniversityNatalie Nelson2019
CAFOs; water qualityfrom WRRI
Modeling and Predicting Drinking Water Contamination Risk in North Carolina to Enhance Community ResilienceRiley Mulhern, UNC Chapel HillJacqueline MacDonald Gibson2019drinking water contamination; Environmental Justice; Robeson County; Wake Countyfrom WRRI
Effects of Salinization on Mercury Bioavailability in Coastal Wetlands at Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, North CarolinaYener Ulus, UNC GreensboroMartin Tsui2019coastal wetlands; salinization; mercury contamination; Dare county; Tyrell countyfrom WRRI
Sunlight-Mediated Removal of Emerging Contaminants in Treatment Wetlands and Surface WatersArpit Sardana, NC State UniversityTarek Aziz2019water quality; pharmaceuticals; wastewaterfrom WRRI
Green Infrastructure in Schools: Creating a Network for Stormwater Management and Student Engagement and Well-beingZhenzhen Zhang, NC State UniversityKathryn Stevenson2019climate change; stormwater management; green infrastrucutre; educationfrom WRRI
A Watershed Model to Understand Groundwater and Surface Water Interactions to Support Sewer Utility Resilience at the Jacksonville N.C. Forest Water Re-Use FacilityNancy Gibson, NC State UniversityElizabeth Nichols2018groundwater; surface water; sewer; wastewater treatment; Jacksonville, NC
Design and Application of Cyclodextrin-Based Materials for the Treatment of Legacy and Emerging Perfluoroalkyl AcidsZachary Hopkins, NC State UniversityDetlef Knappe2018PFAS treatment
Phytoplankton Nutritional Ecology and the Eutrophication Trajectory in a Piedmont Reservoir with Elevated AmmoniumNicole Lindor, NC State UniversityJoAnn Burkholder2018eutrophication; Falls Lake
Cometabolic Degradation of 1,4-Dioxane in Biologically Active Carbon Filters with Locally Enriched BiotaAmie McElroy, NC State UniversityDetlef Knappe20181,4-dioxane
Electrochemical Mineralization of Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctanesulfonic AcidVivek Pulikkal, UNC CharlotteMei Sun2018PFAS