Andrea Achilli, left, and Kerri Hickenbottom joined the CHEE faculty this semester. Both aim to further their research while making a positive impact on students.
Andrea Achilli, a new assistant professor in the CHEE department, says he has always been a curious person, and his passion for his research stems from the personal need to know more.
Achilli received his combined bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering from the University of Ancona in Italy.
“The PhD programs in the states are truly the best,” said Achilli, who pursued his doctorate in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. With his PhD, Achilli earned a position at Humboldt State University. Following this placement, he came to the University of Arizona in the hope of better research opportunities.
UA’s Water & Energy Sustainable Technology Center was a big draw for Achilli. In one of his past research projects, Achilli essentially made energy out of water using waters with different levels of salinity.
“It was pretty exciting,” he said.
Achilli is also excited about the arid Southwest desert that surrounds the UA. He enjoys viewing the Tucson landscape as much as he enjoys working in it, and often takes bike rides up Mount Lemmon and through Saguaro National Park. When he’s not enjoying the views, he’s taking advantage of the research opportunities he has working at the WEST Center.
“There are more resources and it impacts the local community.”
About eight years ago, Achilli and teammates developed a new bioreactor for advanced wastewater treatment and water reuse.
“We published the first paper on it, which now has 500 citations, and started a new line of research,” he said.
The UA offers an opportunity to continue that research while also teaching.
“I don’t like the old school lecturing scheme,” he said. “I try to be very available for my students.”
He also prefers to teach his students to tackle practical problems as opposed to more hands-off, abstract things.
After teaching both undergraduates and graduates, Achilli has adapted to the differences between the two.
“Undergrads need more structure,” he said. “And with grads there is definitely more time for discussion.”
Kerri Hickenbottom’s interest in environmental engineering started when she found herself working in a water-treatment lab as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“I loved that it combined technology and people,” Hickenbottom said. “Because [this field of research] is about making safe and affordable sources of potable water that are widely accessible to all.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and her master’s and doctorate in environmental engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Shortly after graduating with her doctorate, Hickenbottom began working at Humboldt State University in northern California.
Her past research projects include recovering valuable minerals from the Great Salt Lake, treatment and reuse of flow-back water from hydraulic fracturing operations, and using low-grade heat for electrical energy generation.
Hickenbottom’s main reason for choosing to move to the University of Arizona was for the ample research opportunities that would be available to her here.
“I’m hoping to continue my research on resource recovery for beneficial use, and collaborate with others to work on solving some of our greater environmental challenges,” she said. The sunny weather was also a draw because she enjoys cycling and running outdoors.
Hickenbottom is looking forward to the spring semester when she will be co-teaching CHEE 370 with Paul Blowers. She admires his unique approach to teaching, like integrating current events into the course material and using team-based learning strategies.
She hopes that she can do her part in motivating her students.
“I want students to be inspired by the material and start to realize how they can use their skills to develop strategies and technologies that improve our societal footprint on the environment,” she said.
This article was contributed by Kennedy Munter