Dr. Woo Hyoung Lee, P.E.
Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering
February 2016

Q: What does Sustainability mean to you?
A: As an environmental engineering faculty and a registered professional engineer (PE), sustainability to me means renewable energy production from waste. I would like to establish and advance fundamentals associated with a ‘waste–products’ vision centered on recycling waste such as food waste, wastewater, and dairy manure to energy such as biofuel, hydrogen, and bioplastics as well as clean water. This will incorporate existing waste and wastewater treatment processes into valuable energy production processes as one of environmental sustainability efforts. Of course, educating future environmental engineers is also very important to me for environmental sustainability.

Q: Describe the class you teach.
A: I teach ENV 6030 (Environmental Biotechnology) for graduate students. This course examines foundation in microbiology and engineering principles for environmental biotechnology application to address environmental pollution control. Recent development of environmental biotechnologies such as microbial fuel cell and algal bioreactors is discussed. This course aids students’ understanding of the interesting and complex environmental topics related to sustainable environmental protection. This course also provides valuable information for more advanced research in environmental engineering and stimulate graduate students’ interest in environmental sustainability. I incorporate lectures, guest speakers, and term projects. The class is offered Fall semester biannually. I am also teaching EES 4111C (Chemical Process Control), EES 4202C (Biological Process Control), and ENV 3001 (Introduction to Environmental Engineering) for future environmental engineers.

Q: What do you do at UCF to advance sustainability initiatives?
A: To date, my research has encompassed advanced water/wastewater treatment processes, development and use of electrochemical microsensors for biological process analysis and water quality monitoring, and bioenergy production from wastes. Particularly, I strongly value interdisciplinary research teams and the collaboration among various academic departments.

My current efforts at UCF to advance sustainability initiatives are microalgae based bioenergy production processes which were more sustainable way to produce biofuels while treating wastewater compared to traditional treatment processes. For this algae bioenergy work, I received two federal grants from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NASA.

The EPA P3 Award is a national student design competition award which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by designing environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. This project aims to develop a more sustainable means of growing and collecting algae as a bioenergy source. It is expected that our system will turn algae biofuel into an economically achievable energy source by exceeding the benchmark energy return on investment (EROI) of 3:1. The related news was announced in the UCF Today (UCF Students Make School History -- Win EPA Grant for Sustainability Project: http://today.ucf.edu/ucf-students-make-school-history-win-epa-grant-for-... ). My P3 student team will present their achievement at the National Sustainable Design Expo which will be collocated with the USA Science & Engineering Festival (USASEF) in the Washington DC Convention Center in April 15-17, 2016.

In addition, supported by NASA, I have been developing and evaluating a novel symbiotic microalgae recovery technology (SMART) for potential use on the International Space Station as part of the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSSs) with graduate students in my lab. The system will use a symbiotic relationship between microalgae and bacteria for nutrient removal. The microalgae-bacteria consortium can provide a sustainable wastewater treatment alternative without aeration while adding potential lipid, biomass, and phosphorus recovery. Through this collaboration with NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), I will continue to work on technology advancing partnership with KSC for environmental sustainability.

I also worked on the dishwashing water recycling system supported by U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center. Greywater reuse is becoming a common practice worldwide because of the increase in water demand. In remote locations of limited water supply such as those encountered in military installations, it is desirable to expand its classification to include dishwashing water to maximize the conservation of fresh water. As an effort of sustainable greywater reuse, our research team completed to finalize a specific set of dishwashing water reuse standards for field analysis (simple, but accurate). I believe that the developed specific water standard is the first for dishwashing water reuse and expect that this standard may prove useful in future development of civilian guidelines.

Q: How can students get involved in your work?
A: Mostly, I support my students from the research grants (e.g., EPA, NASA, Navy, and USDA). I also help students to get their scholarship for the research in my lab. One of my doctoral student received a NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) doctoral dissertation improvement fellowship with a research title: Algae as a Sustainable Life Support System during Long Duration Space Missions. The purpose of this fellowship program is to provide a prestigious instrument to reward and attract the best and brightest. One of my undergraduate researchers received Career Advancement Mentoring Program for Young Entrepreneur and Scholars (CAMP-YES) Scholarship at UCF. I am eager to share my knowledge and experience with future leaders in environmental engineering. My lab is open to student volunteers and future sustainable leaders.

Q: What is your vision for sustainability?
A: My vision for sustainability is to support sound environmental decisions to assist engineers, managers, and policy makers in making technology, design, and regulatory decisions and to educate future leaders for environmental sustainability. I will also have the opportunity during my faculty career to explore niche area for environmental sustainability. For example, I have spent summer in DC for working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division as an ONR (Office of Naval Research) Summer Fellow since 2014 to solve their problem with emulsion breaking from bilge water in the Navy Ships. This is another way to maintain a clean and sustainable ocean environment by separating oil and water from oily wastewater.