The Department of Biological System Engineering (BSE) recently hired Leigh-Anne Krometis as an assistant professor. After being fortunate enough to be in one of Dr. Krometis’ Water Resources classes last semester, I had the privilege to interview her about her current research, as well as her educational background.
Dr. Krometis first visited Virginia Tech when she was 16 years old and immediately fell in love with the beautiful campus. After happily arriving as a freshman Hokie two years later, she decided to study engineering. This wasn’t a tough decision, as she was already very interested in applied math and science, and her father was himself a proud engineer. She explained her decision to study BSE by stating, “I was a bit of a doe-eyed ‘save the world’ type and I was attracted by the systems/watershed-scale curriculum”. After completing her bachelors, she decided to continue her journey at Virginia Tech by enrolling in Masters of BSE program. During her Masters, she became fascinated by microorganisms and disease ecology, which led to a study of the link between environmental degradation and human health risk.
After her masters, she moved to North Carolina and enrolled in UNC Chapel Hill for her PHD where she was able to continue her work in watershed management while learning about epidemiology and risk analysis. Her PHD research focused on understanding how waterborne pathogens in urban streams interact with suspended sediments.
In August 2011, she joined the BSE department as an Assistant Professor. In BSE, she writes grants to support her research lab, mentors graduate students, and teaches both graduate and undergraduate classes. She is currently busy doing work on various research projects relating to environment and human health which includes, “evaluating biological water quality impairments in central Appalachian Mining communities.” For this specific project, she is partnering with Dr. Emily Sarver in the mining and minerals engineering department to look at links between sewage discharge and ecological and human health in mining communities. Among other things, she also conducts research within Stroubles Creek tracking fecal indicator bacteria.
The BSE department recently received grants from the National Science Foundation to conduct “Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates” (REU) programs. The summer 2012 REU is run by Dr. Krometis and Dr. Hession, and is physically based inside the Stroubles Creek’s StREAM Lab. Stroubles Creek is currently impaired due to unacceptable levels of sediment and E. coli bacteria. The focus of the StREAM lab to understand how land use affects the characteristics of the creek and surrounding ecology. During this past summer, 10 undergraduates from 7 different universities worked with faculty to conduct interdisciplinary research, focusing on multiple complex research problems associated with urban streams.
Despite being occupied by so much work, Dr. Krometis still advises group of students on their masters and PhD programs. Her graduate students are working on a wide range of projects relating to water quality. One of her students, Kelsey Pieper, is working on a project titled “Patterns of Water Quality in Private Water Supplies in Virginia”. Another student, Hehuan Liao, is conducting a project focused on “contaminants of human health concern in urban stream sediments.”
Aside from being involved in research and teaching, Dr. Krometis is the advisor for the BSE honor society Alpha Epsilon. When she’s not working or advising students, she likes to spend a lot of time hiking, swimming, or biking in the mountains with her husband and 4 year old son. She is also a “fairly serious yogini” and often attends yoga classes in different studios around town.
Despite difficult economic times, the future of environmental and health based careers are still expanding. If you are interested in the environment or “Green Majors,” BSE is a great department to look into. If you don’t want to get degree in this field, you might want to consider a Green Engineering Minor. For non-engineers still concerned about the environment, you might want to check out a minor in Environmental Science or Watershed Management.
Aneela is a senior in Biological Systems Engineering