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November 23, 2000



Dr. Catherine Mulligan

Dr. Catherine Mulligan.

Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj.

by Maria Vincelli

The opening of a class 2 biological laboratory last week will enhance Concordia’s environmental engineering program.

“This lab marks a major milestone in our drive to develop the area of environmental engineering,” said Osama Moselhi, chair of the Department of Civil, Building and Environmental Engineering, at the inauguration of the research lab for faculty and graduate students.

The lab, located on the third floor of the BE annex at 1257 Guy St., was made possible by a $500,000 infrastructure grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and awarded to Catherine Mulligan in April 1999.

Dr. Mulligan is thrilled with the facility, which took somewhat longer to construct than anticipated, not only because of delays in delivery, but because new clauses in the National Building Code meant that the space, previously the Building Materials Laboratory, had to be rebuilt with fireproof walls and better ventilation.

Though construction costs doubled as a result, Mulligan was able to equip the space with stainless steel work benches, three regular ventilation hoods and a class 2 biological safety hood to protect workers from pathogens lurking in soil or water samples, one of the features that makes the lab unique in the university. Many pieces of specialized equipment used in the analysis of soil and water samples and in the identification and treatment of pollutants were installed and operational at the time of the opening.

Last spring, NSERC awarded Mulligan $90,000 to purchase a high-performance liquid chromatograph for the analysis of material dissolved in water. This and other equipment will be installed this month.

Professor Maria Elektorowicz, who is also involved in the project, said that faculty researchers have pieces of equipment that they have been collecting for years. Without a home to call its own since 1993, Elektorowicz’s atomic absorption spectrometer (for measuring metals in liquids or soils) is already installed, but other equipment is still at an old ecotoxicology lab in the Biology Department.

Mulligan told the crowd that she is anxious to set up the rest of her equipment and get going on her own research, which has taken a back seat in recent months to preparing new courses, setting up the lab and assisting Elektorowicz with a Web site promoting the department’s new graduate certificates. She has as many as nine students researching chemical, physical and biological methods of wastewater treatment under her supervision.

Elektorowicz has received $40,000 from the provincial government to promote the certificates in industrial waste management, environmental auditing and environmental systems modelling.

Since the early 1990s, the department has offered several slot courses in environmental engineering. In 1997, it added environmental engineering to its name to reflect the new focus.

By January, the Environmental Engineering Research Laboratory will be ready for collaborative research with Quebec industry. It is expected that more than 20 researchers will be working in solid waste management, soil remediation, industrial wastewater treatment, natural attenuation, fate of contaminants in water and environmental impact assessment.