Global Water Center provides space for water quality research

Global+Water+center+provides+space+for+water+quality+research+and+innovation

Photo by Benjamin Wells

Global Water center provides space for water quality research and innovation

Milwaukee is right next to Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes known for its contaminated waters. At the Global Water Center, Marquette students and faculty are participating in water quality research and innovation to help solve issues surrounding water contamination

“(The Global Water Center) is a place for collaboration between the university and industry on water technologies and water research,” Krassimira Hristova, associate professor of biological sciences and director of the Marquette Global Water Center, said.

Some of these collaborators include students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage district and industry partner A.O. Smith, a water heating company.

The Marquette research takes place on the 6th floor of the Global Water Center, which is in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. The Global Water Center is a lab and research facility in Milwaukee that is used by a number of academic institutions and industry partners to conduct research on water related issues.

Back in 2016 when Marquette first got involved with the Global Water Center, University President Michael Lovell spoke at the grand opening event. 

“Our faculty and students are going to benefit immensely – the talents at our university are going to be helping to solve the world’s water problems,” Lovell said at the opening.

Since then, Marquette has continued further research and innovation on many water-related issues. Some of these issues include the impact of recycled materials on river water system function and the impact of toxicants, such as heavy metals, on microbial communities.

There have also been a number of Ph.D. students working on their own projects. Ph.D. student Kassidy O’Malley has been working on assessing antibiotic genes in storm water.

Antibiotic resistance is a public health crisis due to bacteria resisting the effects of the antibiotics designed to kill them. In order to address this crisis, all aspects of the problem must be understood,” O’Malley said.

In order to gain this full understanding, O’Malley conducts research on Milwaukee storm water in the Global Water Center.

“My research focuses very specifically on the input of antibiotic resistance into the environment from storm water. We sample storms as they occur in Milwaukee and target key storm water infrastructure locations,” O’Malley said.

Marquette students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the Global Water Center. “Project Water” has given 36 high school students from Marshall High School, a local Milwaukee Public school, the opportunity to be a part of scientific research.  

“It’s hard to provide open-ended science progression in high school. But with this program, students get insight into areas of innovation and a better understanding of the actual scientific process,” Jenny Lamanna, visiting professor of biology and the high school innovation and research coordinator for the Marquette Global Water Center, said. 

The “Project Water” program was created in 2019 to help empower minority students to get involved in STEM, while giving them hands on research and innovation experience.

“We wanted to build a program to create pathways for historically underrepresented students and help them feel like the STEM fields are a place for them,” Lamanna said.

The high school students work with four interns, who are Marquette undergraduate students, in an all virtual program, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the program the interns share their research and have discussions with high school students and help them create their own water-related research project.

“The goal was to bring students to the Global Water Center and give them real professional experience through the process of science and innovation,” Lamanna said.

Currently, students are not allowed to be at the Global Water Center in person due to COVID-19 restrictions. But there are plans to have students there in the future, when it is deemed to be safe. The Global Water Center has continued to provide a space for research and innovation in water for not only Marquette students, but the greater Milwaukee community.

This story was written by Megan Woolard. She can be reached at megan.woolard@marquette.edu