Bettina Voelker, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been awarded the 1998 Doherty Professorship in Ocean Utilization from the MIT Sea Grant College Program.
Every year, the program selects one new faculty member for a supplemental award of $25,000 per year for two years.
To understand the fate and ecotoxicological effects of pollutant metals in coastal waters, scientists must also understand how those metals interact with organic matter. Professor Voelker's research will focus on how organic matter affects the speciation of copper and cadmium in coastal waters.
Working with a graduate student, Professor Voelker will examine whether humic substances -- organic material found in soils and natural waters -- contain binding sites that can form strong complexes with metals in seawater. The research will also explore what happens to metal-humate complexes that enter the marine environment.
In 1997, John Leonard, assistant professor of ocean engineering, was awarded the two-year chair for his proposal to study dynamic underwater sonar data fusion.
The Doherty Fellowship, endowed by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation, encourages nontenured professors to undertake marine-related research that will lead to more innovative uses of the ocean's resources. The area of research may address any aspect of marine use and/or management, whether social, political, environmental or technological.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 1998.