People of SU / Research

Visiting Scholar Exchange Enhances SU Mission

Written by Brett Prim

July 26, 2022

Two students and two faculty members wearing protective lab coats and eyewear while reviewing research results in a lab.

Image credit: Yosef Kalinko

Seattle University civil and environmental engineering faculty and students participate in visiting scholars exchange with Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. 

In June, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering hosted five visiting scholars—four students and one faculty member—from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (PUJ) in Bogotá, Colombia. The visit was part of a collaboration between students and faculty from Seattle University and PUJ to provide additional global education and research opportunities for STEM students. The collaboration and exchange trip were organized and led by Professors Katie Kuder, PhD, and Mike Marsolek, PhD.

“These collaborations are great examples of the SU mission in action,” says Marsolek, department chair and one of the leaders in developing the partnership. “Exchanges like this create an environment where faculty and students from SU and PUJ can teach each other, both about technical subjects like coffee production and wastewater treatment, but also about working within and across our respective cultures. Fostering teamwork, professionalism and understanding in the global engineering community is directly relevant to our mission to educate the whole person.” 

Scholars from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana working with SU faculty in lab.

Dr. Marsolek (back row) stands with a research team from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in an on-campus lab.

While in Seattle, from June 19-25, the students worked together to begin a research project focused on developing sustainable methods to clean coffee wastewater. Wastewater from coffee farms significantly impacts the environment and local economy, including contributing to eutrophication of local rivers. It also deteriorates water quality for downstream coffee farms, harming their product quality and incomes.

Students used granular media filters to separate suspended solids from synthetic coffee wastewater and measured the resultant impact on turbidity and pH (potential of hydrogen). Tests were then repeated with various sizes of granular media and bag filters. The results of these investigations are used to inform construction of field scale granular media and bag filters to treat actual coffee wastewater. 

In September, five SU students and two faculty will travel to PUJ to continue the collaboration. In addition to continuing research, the trip will include site visits to coffee farms, meetings with the National Federation of Coffee Growers and an informational trip to a wastewater treatment plant.

“This is the kind of program that prepares our graduates to be global citizens who are ready to solve grand challenges with consideration to ethics, social justice and humanity,” says Amit Shukla, PhD, dean of the College of Science and Engineering. “The fact this collaboration with PUJ, which is part of the International Association of Jesuit Engineering Schools, enables global partnerships and enhances the SU’s presence in the South American Continent is a great benefit as well. We look forward to building upon this relationship.”

This is the first visit since Seattle University began collaborating with PUJ in Spring 2021. SU is continuing to explore ways to partner with PUJ to provide learning and research opportunities for students, including the potential for a formal exchange program for engineering students and research collaborations between faculty. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity for our students and faculty to benefit from partnerships with another Jesuit university in a different part of the world,” says Joe Orlando, EdD, special assistant to the Provost and a key leader helping to cultivate such relationships. “Our Jesuit educational experience is strengthened when we can share in that effort with peers and colleagues who similarly pursue that mission on other continents.”