Alice Wang

Civil Engineering, College of Engineering

“Contaminated waterways are a worldwide problem. These chemicals are not biodegradable and if we don’t clean them up, they will just stay there.”

Alice Wang is a historian of sorts, investigating the dubious environmental legacies left by some of the country’s dirtiest industries.

With a background in chemical, civil, and environmental engineering, she researches the toxic chemicals found in the sediment of New Bedford Harbor, a busy fishing port on the south coast of Massachusetts. For decades, two electric device companies dumped heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the water. As a result, the harbor is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) largest Superfund sites. Wang works closely with the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to monitor the levels of chemicals in the sediment as well as in minnows, clams, and marine worms that offer clues about the impact of these toxins on the food chain. Her dissertation also examines the efficacy of different types of remediation. She and her advisor, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Loretta Fernandez, have collaborated with both federal agencies on published papers and presentations.

Wang is passionate about keeping waterways clean for future generations. She grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, swimming in nearby Walden Pond and the ocean and studied chemical engineering as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon. Long-term, she’d like to work in corporate sustainability, but first plans to get a job working for an environmental consulting firm that specializes in contaminated sediment assessment and remediation.

“I like collaborating with other researchers doing similar work in other areas. In academic research, it is possible to become so specialized that we disconnect, and I believe interdisciplinary work helps us keep the big picture in sight.” 
Alice Wang