UA Students Win First Environmental Research Competition

Winners of the Geosyntec Award
Dusty Hawkins and Rebecca Greenberg are the first winners of the University of Alabama Outstanding Research Competition.

From the January 2017 Desktop News Two students in the Department of Geological Sciences recently received $5,000 by winning the first University of Alabama Outstanding Research Competition. The competition funds theses and dissertations that perform cutting-edge research related to the assessment and treatment of chemical contaminants in soil and groundwater.

The competition was created by Geosyntec Consultants, an engineering firm that works with clients to address new ventures and complex problems involving the environment, natural resources, and civil infrastructure.

“Geosyntec is interested in identifying and rewarding students who are conducting innovative research in the environmental field,” said William Burke, a UA alumnus and geologist at Geosyntec. “The two winners of the UA Outstanding Research Competition are conducting research in emerging contaminants and acid mine drainage, both of which are big problems, not only in Alabama, but worldwide.

“Their research is pushing the limits of our current understanding of these issues, and their contributions will further our understanding of contaminant fate and transport, as well as effective remediation strategies and remedial design.”

Graduate student Dusty Hawkins and doctoral student Rebecca Greenberg are the first winners of the competition. Each received $2,500 to support research. A portion of their winnings will be allotted to their respective research programs within the Department of Geological Sciences.

“This support means a lot to me,” Hawkins said. “As a student, you have to be realistic with your research budget. You always want to do more, but usually monetary constraints limit it. However, with Geosyntec’s generous support, I will be able to analyze all of my aqueous samples, instead of a representative group. That will put a smile on your face any day — if you love science.”

According to Dr. Geoffrey Tick, associate professor of geology, Geosyntec has been recruiting at the University since 2012, and five graduates have been employed at the firm.

“The department is very proud to be involved with this collaboration,” Tick said. “It’s great to have a private-sector company such as Geosyntec Consultants support our students, and it is ultimately a mutual benefit for both of them: The students are working on relevant research that Geosyntec has specific interests in, and the students gain experience in relevant topics that Geosyntec and other similar companies seek, enhancing the students’ competitive edge on the job market.”