A University of Oklahoma environmental science graduate student is the recipient of the 2011 EPA Science to Achieve Results Fellowship for research on safe drinking water with a focus on the Rift Valley area of Ethiopia.
Laura Brunson, a doctoral student in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, will receive up to $42,000 per year for a three-year period to support her demonstrated commitment and on-going research on safe drinking water solutions for developing countries.
"This award recognizes Laura's unique abilities, contributions to date and future potential as an international leader in her field. We are so fortunate to have her as part of the OU WaTER Center team where she is making significant contributions to improve the lives of those living in poverty in Ethiopia," states David A. Sabatini, professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and director of the OU WaTER Center.
Brunson is working with the OU WaTER Center to develop a technique using aluminum-coated bone char that removes fluoride from drinking water. She recently traveled to Ethiopia to test low-cost, low-energy, sustainable solutions for communities in the Rift Valley.
The level of fluoride in drinking water in the Rift Valley is extremely high and results in severe overexposure to fluoride marked by damage to the bones and darkening of the teeth. Bones charred at a high temperature are effective in the removal of fluoride from water, but sustainable treatment plants and implementation methods are needed in rural Ethiopian communities.
According to Brunson, a trip to the Boundary Water Canoe Area in 1992, along with years of outdoor experiences and a belief in the importance of using ones talents and gifts to contribute positively to society, led her to study environmental science with an emphasis on water quality.
Brunson is an adjunct instructor in the OU College of Business where she teaches social entrepreneurship. She is working with a group of students from the OU Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth to develop and implement a social entrepreneurial model for the bone char technology.