Dominic Edward Varda
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Graduation date: Spring 2023
FURI | Fall 2022
Engineering Water Disinfection via On-Site Electrochlorination and Electrochlorine Breakpoint
On-site electrochlorination is a promising solution for decentralized water treatment since it is easy to operate and sustains long-term disinfection. This work investigated the impact of electrocatalyst selection on active chlorine generation including Ti/RuO2, Ti/IrO2, and BDD. Operating parameters like current density, chloride concentration and cross velocity were evaluated using an engineered plug-flow electrochemical cell and chosen to simulate real-world household conditions. The results demonstrated the most promising anode material was Ti/RuO2 reaching free chlorine concentrations as high as 14 ppm in a single pass. Furthermore, chlorine breakpoint was explored in the context of electrochlorination to understand the influence of ammonia on electrochemically driven technologies.
Mentor: Sergi Garcia Segura
Featured project | Fall 2022
Dominic Varda is an environmental engineering senior and FURI researcher studying electrochlorination with Sergi Garcia-Segura, an assistant professor of environmental engineering. This water disinfection method can be used on-site for long-term use in residential areas that lack access to fresh water. Varda is investigating how different materials affect decontamination performance.
What made you want to get involved in FURI?
I took a class, EVE 304 Environmental Engineering Processes Lab, with Dr. Sergi Garcia-Segura and really enjoyed it. It was a course heavily focused on lab work and I found myself enjoying the experiments. The class was very chemistry-focused, which I liked, so I reached out to Dr. Garcia-Segura about doing some research with him outside of class. He was happy to support my project and has been helpful every step of the way.
What has been your most memorable experience as a student researcher?
The first few days and weeks were very exciting and new to me. I had little to no real research or lab experience before this, so everything was a learning curve. Once I became comfortable enough to do experiments on my own, research became much more enjoyable and exciting.
Have there been any surprises in your research?
There have been surprises during every step of the way. There were times when I was confident to reach a certain result and my experiments didn’t pan out at all. On the other hand, there were times where I felt confused and lost but ended up having good breakthroughs in my research.
What is the best advice you’ve gotten from your faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Sergi Garcia-Segura?
Some of the best advice I have received from my mentor would have to be that if you don’t love the journey and the process, the destination is not going to be worth it. He made it clear to me from day one that I have to enjoy what I’m doing, because passion and joy in your work will take you a lot further and produce much higher-quality work than if you dislike what you’re doing. He also told me that if at any time I would like to try something new or go a different route, that was perfectly fine with him as long as I had a plan.
Why should other students get involved in FURI?
Other students should consider this program because it is a great way to test the waters and see if you like research. FURI is not a huge time commitment and I think it offers the right balance of flexibility and opportunity so you can really have fun and enjoy the work you do.