University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
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Faculty Profile

Ning Dai

Assistant Professor of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Research

My research focuses on the interface of environmental analytical chemistry, treatment processes, and reactor engineering. I am continuing to study a group of harmful compounds, N-nitrosamines, as byproducts of two important processes: amine-based CO₂capture and drinking water disinfection.

Carbon sequestration, the capture and storage of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, is a key player in mitigating global climate change. Amine-based CO₂capture is currently the only available technology implementing post-combustion CO₂capture in the industrial scale. However, the formation of potentially carcinogenic byproducts N-nitrosamines in these systems and their subsequent atmospheric emission has raised widespread concern. In the past, I addressed this environmental challenge from three aspects: I optimized analytical methods to monitor the formation of these contaminants, developed strategies to prevent their formation, and designed treatment systems to limit their emission. My goals are to enable safe CO₂capture.

Drinking water disinfection has significantly improved public health by protecting us from waterborne diseases. However, in recent decades, research has revealed that chemical disinfectants can react with substances in the water to form disinfection byproducts, some of which may increase cancer risks. N-nitrosamines are a group of emerging disinfection byproducts. I surveyed their concentrations in drinking water nationwide and showed that their presence can correlate with the upstream discharge of domestic wastewater. In the future, I will continue to decipher the formation mechanisms of N-nitrosamine as disinfection byproducts, develop prevention and removal strategies, and ultimately improve our drinking water quality.

Research Interests

I am exploring organic nitrogen chemistry in engineered and natural environmental systems to reduce risks to human health. I believe that an improved understanding of these systems will lead to creative and sustainable solutions to environmental problems that have occurred as a result of the release of nitrogen-containing organic compounds from industrial and domestic sources.

Teaching Interests

I teach both undergraduate and graduate level classes with topics in environmental water chemistry, physical and chemical treatment processes for water and wastewater reuse, and environmental analytical chemistry.

I mentor both undergraduate and graduate students to help them develop research projects and laboratory skills. I aspire to be a teacher and a mentor who inspires students to excel, to appreciate the beauty of science and engineering, and to be life-long learners. I recognize that my students have diverse levels of previous experiences, learning styles, strengths, and personalities, and strive to build an inclusive learning/research environment together with them.  

Education

  • PhD, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University, May, 2014; Dissertation:  N-Nitrosamine and N-Nitramine Formation in Amine-based CO₂ Capture Systems
  • MS, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, June, 2009
  • BS, Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tsinghua University, July, 2008; Senior Thesis:  Microbial Community in Low-temperature EGSB Anaerobic Reactor

Honors, Awards and Special Recognitions

  • Certificate of Merit Award, Division of Environmental Chemistry, American Chemical Society (2012)
  • Department Fellowship, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Yale University (2009)
  • Larry C. K. Yung Fellowship, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University (2008)
  • Award of Excellence for Class of 2008, Tsinghua University (2008)

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