Three Ph.D. Research Associate positions are available for 2021 spring semester

The Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, also known as Virginia Tech, invites applications for three Graduate Research Associate positions in Environmental Engineering to pursue research in three directions described below. These graduate students will conduct research in the Sustainable Environment Research Laboratory of Dr. Zhiwu (Drew) Wang stationed within the Washington metropolitan area. All three positions can be available as early as spring 2021 and require graduate students to be able to drive vehicles between multiple experimental sites and work closely with industrial and academic partners.  The candidate with good hands-on ability and aspiration to finding solution to real-world engineering problems is preferred.

The ideal candidates should possess Master or Bachelor degrees in civil engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, biological system engineering, or a related field with minimum GPA: 3.0. While our department does not have a minimum required score for the GRE, most admitted applicants have at least a 155 on the Quantitative Section of the exam. For international students, TOEFL score is required. Our departmental minimum is 90 (internet-based). Further, TOEFL scores of 20 or greater in Listening, Writing, Speaking, and Reading subsections are required. IELTS may be substituted for the TOEFL only if it is above 6.5.

 Interested students are encouraged to contact Dr. Wang directly at with email subject as “2021 SERL GRA application”. A curriculum vita should be provided in your email showing GPA, GRE and TOFEL scores, the contact information of three references, and a full list of publications if applicable. Interested candidates can find more information about Dr. Wang’s research at The review process will begin immediately and continue until all positions are filled. The selected candidates will be supported with monthly stipend around $2,200 besides benefits and full tuition.

 1.   Innovative technology for biological conversion of food waste to bioplastics

A Ph.D. will be supported by this DOE funded project to increase the value and carbon conversion of food waste through bioplastics formation so as to provide an economical solution for community-scale waste treatment in lieu of landfilling food waste or traditional anaerobic digestion. The goal of the project is to enhance bioplastic productivity from unrefined organics produced during dark fermentation of food waste. Candidates with experience in pure culture cultivation and fermentation are especially encouraged.

 2.   Biological valorization of hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater with granulated marine Protist

A Ph.D. will be supported by this NSF funded project to establish a robust biological approach to recover carbon and nutrients from hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater in order to enable sustainable hydrothermal liquefaction for biofuel production. The success of this project would pave a new avenue for purifying toxic wastewater by using marine protists. Candidates with experience in biological wastewater treatment are especially welcomed.

3.   Innovation of anaerobic digestion with the membrane technology

A Ph.D. will be supported by this USDA funded project to revolutionize the modern anaerobic digestion systems by using special membrane to close the loop of water budget by recirculating the purified effluent.  Development of this technique and consolidate it with the design and operation of existing anaerobic digesters is the focus of this study. Candidates with experience in membrane technology are especially welcomed.