Engineering major’s research on sustainable wastewater treatment accepted into prestigious symposium

Junior civil and environmental engineering major Melissa Tan’s research was recently accepted into the 14th annual Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS), hosted by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at Rice University held on Oct. 8.

GCURS provides current undergraduates the opportunity to present their original research discoveries to scholars from around the world. Melissa Tan

Tan, a legacy student at Lamar University — her father and older brother graduated from LIT, her mother graduated from LU and two of her sisters are current students — has lived in Beaumont her entire life. She decided to attend Lamar University because of “the endless opportunities here,” she said.

She first started her research journey during her first summer under mentor Dr. Thinesh Selvaratnam and has been working inside of the algae lab ever since.

Tan’s research, she explained, focused on the removal of heavy metals from landfill leachate using the microalga Galdieria sulphuraria.

“Heavy metals are toxic to the environment and the current removal processes of these heavy metals are often expensive and inefficient,” she said. “Biological algal-based treatment systems are often viewed as a potential alternative to the current treatment processes.”

In the study, she evaluated the potential of using the microalga to efficiently perform on-site leachate treatment. What interested Tan most in the subject, she said, was the sustainability aspect of using an algal-based system for wastewater treatment.

“The current wastewater treatment options that we have today have definitely improved,” Tan added, “but there can always be more improvement.”

The civil and environmental engineering major said that this experience has helped her in a way that goes beyond academics and will contribute to her future success.

“At the start of my research journey, my public speaking skills were pretty nonexistent, especially after COVID-19 hit,” Tan said. “However, as I began presenting more and more, I slowly saw myself improving each time. I think that GCURS is exactly what I need right now to help me improve the way I present myself and my research. This experience will surely help me in the long run whenever I need to present my work.”

For more information about the symposium, visit gcurs.rice.edu.