Published: April 28, 2020

Keani WillebrandEnvironmental engineering major Keani Willebrand has earned a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Willebrand will receive her BS in environmental engineering next month. She plans to continue her education, pursuing a graduate degree in environmental engineering at Stanford University.

“I feel extremely honored and humbled to have been awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and to have the opportunity to pursue my research passions as I continue into my graduate studies. I believe that the experiences and opportunities I have had over the past four years, notably within the CU Boulder community, have largely contributed to my selection as a fellow.”

Willebrand’s research is focused on alternative water management strategies, including the development of decentralized water treatment technologies and how these technologies may be monitored, managed and adapted remotely to promote long-term resiliency and compliance with regulation. 

Decentralized water management systems can collect, treat, dispose of or reuse wastewaters near point-of-use and are increasingly becoming more economically feasible, less prone to accidents, and one of the most promising approaches for improving water management in urban areas. Wetland roofs represent an emerging green infrastructure technology suitable for decentralized water management and the treatment of greywater onsite. 

Through this research study, Willebrand plans to develop a set of design guidelines for future wetland roof construction to maximize reclaimed greywater quality and quantity by consideration of wetland roof substrata, vegetation and greywater loading rates.  

A long-term monitoring campaign leveraging remote water quality sensors will also provide insight into the treatment efficiency of wetland roofs over long-term exposure to greywater contaminants while further contributing to the broader impact of improving future smart water grid development and management strategies.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship provides fellows with a three-year annual stipend of $34,000, tuition and fee support, and opportunities for professional development.

“In this way, the NSF will be supporting my research aspirations financially as well as supporting my professional development as I continue into my graduate career,” Willebrand said. “The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship will allow for me to continue to grow as a researcher in the field of environmental engineering and will support me in seeing my research aspirations come to fruition.”