New project to help scientists mitigate risks of environmental pollutants

Dong Wang
Dong Wang, Associate Professor

In addition to killing insects and weeds, pesticides can be toxic to the environment and harmful to human health. A new project led by Associate Professor Dong Wang and Huichun Zhang, Frank H. Neff Professor of Civil Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, will help scientists mitigate the environmental and ecological risks of pollutants such as pesticides and develop remediation strategies for cleaner water, soil, and air. The researchers have received a three-year, $402,773 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for their project, "Machine Learning Modeling for the Reactivity of Organic Contaminants in Engineered and Natural Environments."

According to Wang, of the more than 100,000 synthetic (mostly organic) chemicals, thousands have been released into the environment to become organic chemicals. Examples include pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, organic solvents, flame retardants, and pharmaceutical and personal care products.

"To mitigate or assess the risks associated with these contaminants, it is important to understand their fate and transport in the environment, such as biodegradation and sorption on soils/sediments. In both cases, there is a major need for quantitative models that allow prediction of the reactivity of organic contaminants in these processes," he said.

Existing models that are used to predict the reactivity of organic contaminants rely heavily on conventional statistics. For their project, the researchers will develop machine learning models to predict the reactivity of thousands of these contaminants in engineered and natural environments.

"Machine learning models will help environmental scientists to better model the fate and transport of pollutants and predict their degradation rate. With these new models, we can not only design better water treatment and remediation processes but also provide more accurate estimates to help contaminant risk assessment," said Wang.

Wang's research interests lie in the areas of human-centered AI, social sensing, big data analytics, and human cyber-physical systems. His work has been applied in a wide range of real-world applications such as misinformation detection, social network analysis, crowd-based disaster response, intelligent transportation, urban planning, and environment monitoring. He holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Updated on
Backto the news archive

Related News

New life for letterpress printing

The old, green hand press that used to be stationed on the first floor of the iSchool building is getting a new lease on life. It has been moved to the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, where students and community members will be using it for letterpress printing. The Washington-style hand press, which was manufactured in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century by Reliance, was used for teaching and fine printing at the University of Illinois for decades before becoming a show piece at the iSchool.

Emilie Butt using printing press

McDowell named Outstanding Information Science Teacher by ASIS&T

Associate Professor Kate McDowell is the 2022 recipient of the Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award from the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). The award recognizes her unique contributions to information science education that reside at the intersection of storytelling and data science.

Kate McDowell

Research on Diversity in Youth Literature moves to Illinois

Research on Diversity in Youth Literature (RDYL), a peer-reviewed, online, and open-access journal focused on issues of diversity, equity, social justice, inclusion, and intersectionality in youth literature, culture, and media, has moved from St. Catherine University to the iSchool's Center for Children's Books. The journal is co-edited by iSchool Associate Professor Sarah Park Dahlen and Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez, associate professor of English at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York.

RDYL logo

Wang to join iSchool faculty

The iSchool is pleased to announce that Haohan Wang will join the faculty as an assistant professor in August 2022, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. He recently completed his PhD in computer science through the Language Technologies Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.

Haohan Wang