My name is Leigh Gilmore and I am a 4th Year PhD Student in Environmental Engineering. I grew up in Grove Hill, Alabama and received my undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in Civil Engineering, with a minor in Environmental Engineering. I started the graduate program at CU-Boulder in the fall of 2012.
Not only is the Environmental Engineering program at CU a top-ranked program, the culture and atmosphere was unlike any other program I had experienced. The professors and students were welcoming and inviting, and the thirst for knowledge was contagious. I wanted a program that promoted growth in all areas (research & knowledge acquisition, presentation skills, networking capability…just to name a few) and I felt CU did that. I also choose to study Environmental Engineering at CU-Boulder due to our department’s Engineering for Developing Communities Program. The EDC program here allowed me to combine my passion for engineering with my passion for people. In addition, the EDC program also offered a pathway to learn how to apply my practical engineering knowledge in appropriate cultural context to support my future professional work.
I am a member of American Water Works Association (AWWA) Rocky Mountain Section and will soon serve as a student representative on the AWWA Biological Drinking Water Treatment Committee. I serve as the Environmental Engineering representative for GSAC (Graduate Student Advisory Committee) at CU-Boulder, which aims to unite the graduate students among the CEAE disciplines. I am an assistant cross-country coach at Fairview High School in Boulder and I teach 3rd-5th grade Sunday School at my church, Cornerstone Boulder. I love riding horses, running, hiking, climbing, water/snow skiing and all things outdoors. A fun fact is that I have an identical twin sister who is in medical school in Alabama.
I am most looking forward to continuing my research on drinking water biological filtration and seeing the first-hand impacts my work has. I also cherish the friendships I have made in the program and look forward to making more!
Boulder, Colorado is absolutely beautiful! I love the running trails, the mountains, the bike paths, its proximity to the ski slopes, the mindset of people who live here, and the four seasons. Boulder, CO has more people with a Ph.D. per capita than any other city in America (so I am told) and this speaks to the intellectual culture of Boulder.
- In your research here at CU with Professor Summers and the DeRISK Center, what have you found most interesting and exciting?
The DeRISK (Design of Risk-reducing, Innovative-implementable Small-system Knowledge) works with small utilities to help solve problems they are currently facing. Growing up in a town of 1,500 people, I find working directly with the small utilities in this manner to be exhilarating and very satisfying work.
- What impact do you think your graduate research will have on the area of sustainability and environment? The world?
With the increasing awareness of carbon emissions and depleting fossil fuels, technologies are needed to meet the water-energy nexus in a sustainable way. I hope biological filtration can be a sustainable, improved technology to help meet this need and improve the sustainability of small drinking water systems. Biological filters can also be used in resource-scarce areas to help make potable water a reality to those without access to it.
- What advice do you offer to other students/undergrads who are thinking about pursuing a graduate degree, both specifically in your discipline and in general?
To prospective students: Follow your passions. “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” (Aristotle). Graduate school is challenging, fun, exciting and enlightening. Figure out where your passions are and how they can help solve the needs of the world.
- You recently received an award at the RMWEA conference for Best Oral Presenter. Tell us about the conference, what your award was, and what your presentation was about.
I was awarded 1st Place for Oral Presentation at the 2015 RMSAWWA/RMWEA conference. The conference was the American Water Works Association Rocky Mountain Student Conference hosted by New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. Graduate students throughout Rocky Mountain Region presented their graduate research and projects. My presentation centered on my research with biological filtration at the bench and pilot scales.
- Have you had any of your work published? If so, can you discuss one that you were most proud of/took the most away from?
So far, I have been a co-author on two papers. I am most proud of the work we did for the Sustainable Community Development paper with a local community, Westwood, Colorado. We were able to involve the stakeholders, meet a current need in a sustainable way, and combine practical engineering skills with compassion. I love working with people, so the ability to work with this community directly had a large impact on me. Through this work, I learned the importance of valuing and heeding stakeholders’ inputs and concerns when designing technologies they will use.
- Katherine Dowdell, K., T. Zearley, L. Gilmore and R. S. Summers, Assessing Biomass on Drinking Water Biotreatment Media: Developing a Relationship between ATP Luminescence and Phospholipid Biomass Analysis Methods, presented at AWWA Biological Treatment Symposium, March 2013, Denver CO.
- Aaron Brown, Elisa Teipel, Kaitlin Litchfield and Leigh Gilmore, Sustainable Community Development – Westwood Solar Furnace Project, presented at IEEE Global Humanitarian Technical Conference, October 2013, San Jose CA.
October 20th, 2015