AUS students win for inventive water contamination solutions in the AUS DuPont Prize competition

Sharjah: Students at American University of Sharjah (AUS) have presented inspirational projects that promote the safety and protection of the community in the AUS DuPont Prize competition held recently at AUS.

The competition is the result of a partnership between AUS and DuPont, a leading global science and innovation company. Students were charged with addressing one of two global challenges. They aimed to develop innovative solutions for removing micropollutants and trace contaminants in water. AUS undergraduate students in their second, third and final years who are pursuing degrees in engineering, sciences or mathematics were eligible to participate.

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Winning first place was the project “Removal of Ciprofloxacin from Wastewater Treatment Plants” by Moin Sabri, a computer science major; Hisham Kazim, a computer engineering student; and Shahariar Zulfiquer, a chemical engineering major. The team won a USD 5,000 tuition grant and an internship opportunity at DuPont.

The project focused on membranes used to remove the antibiotic pharmaceutical known as Ciprofloxacin (CIP) from wastewater treatment plants at an industrial scale.

“We conducted experiments using the novel composite membrane Zirconium Phosphate (Zrp)/Polytetrafluoroethylene (Zrp/PTFE) as well as Filmtec NF270, NF90, ECO membranes. Our recommendations improved the performance of these membranes and delved into the potential utilization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and neural networks to predict membrane fouling, which is a key problem. We are very happy about the win and look forward to our internship at DuPont. This is only the beginning, and we look forward to conducting more research into applications of AI into membrane processes to improve water quality and subsequently the quality of peoples’ lives,” said Sabri.

He added: “AUS has contributed to our achievement through its programs that prepared us as engineers and in the development of our mindsets through an academic culture that is interdisciplinary and encourages challenging the self. Our professors and instructors have been very supportive of us and our work.”

Winning second place were recent graduates Heba Abed, chemistry major, and Rasha Darra, double major in chemistry and chemical engineering. Their project focused on investigating acetaminophen (paracetamol) pollution in water bodies in the MENA region. The team won a USD 3,000 tuition grant.

“The proposed technique is a hybrid between nanofiltration and reverse osmosis techniques to enhance acetaminophen removal. Chronic exposure to acetaminophen, even at low concentrations, can have detrimental health impacts, including endocrine disruptions, liver and renal failure, and abdominal pain. Acetaminophen in water bodies can also be toxic to aquatic ecosystems and the environment. This is why it is important to monitor acetaminophen levels to assess the problem, design effective removal techniques and to put in place guidelines to minimize health and environmental effects,” said Abed.

She added: “We started our work by taking training offered by DuPont, which gave us access to numerous resources and helped us narrow down our research topic. After a comprehensive literature review, we designed and tested different membranes for acetaminophen removal from water. We used these results and the literature on the subject to design a hybrid removal technique. We submitted our final report and presented our work to DuPont. There is no doubt that our AUS education helped us develop the research skills that were necessary to complete this project as well as the oral and communication skills to give an effective presentation. We are very happy and honored to have placed second in such a prestigious competition. Simply participating in the DuPont prize has been a great experience and learning opportunity, as we got to meet people from the industry and learn from their experiences.”

Chemical engineering student team Dana Al-Muqbel, Hind Alqassem and Hafsah Khan won third place for their feasibility study on the removal of microplastic pollutants from wastewater treatment plants effluents through ultrafiltration and coagulation in the Arabian Gulf. The team won a USD 2,000 tuition grant.

“Microplastics are non-biodegradable pollutants accumulating in the environment. Due to their toxicity to humans and aquatic life, there is a persistent need to develop economically feasible microplastic removal methods. DuPont’s workshops and mentorship helped us gain a broader perspective on the industrial application of membrane filtration techniques for the removal of emergent micropollutants. We used our chemical engineering background to develop a process flow diagram, determine needed equipment and to conduct financial analysis that considers capital and operating costs,” said Al-Muqbel.

The team is looking to further expand their study. “We feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in the competition. Moreover, we feel highly motivated to further study the process of microplastic removal from wastewater and develop effective solutions. We would like to encourage our fellow students to participate in similar competitions, be active team players and seize the valuable opportunities that AUS provides. Our time in university is for growth, trying new things and building on our skills,” she said.

Maher Emil, DuPont UAE Country Leader, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with the AUS to provide a platform that recognizes the capabilities of the young talents in the field of science and are proud to play a role in encouraging and assisting in shaping a fruitful future for them. The young minds at the American University of Sharjah impressed us with their talented and creative thinking during the AUS DuPont Prize Competition. They have undergone tremendous growth during the training we provided, in which they showcased their talents and displayed the next generation’s true potential. It was inspiring to see the students at the outset of their careers capable of designing intricate and complex solutions that are easily applicable. We look forward to the future envisioned by these brilliant minds as it was challenging to select the best entry from among the innovative solutions that were submitted for the competition. We are extremely proud to be a part of this initiative with the AUS and hope to further strengthen our relationship through similar collaborations.”

Speaking about the competition and collaboration, Rania Morsi, Interim Executive Director of Advancement and Alumni Affairs at AUS, said: “The office of Advancement and Alumni Affairs (OAAA) continuously strives to establish and maintain significant partnerships and collaborations with key industry businesses, such as DuPont, while ensuring that identified opportunities align with our strategic objectives and goals. Our partnership this year with DuPont helped us advance the university’s mission in offering the high-quality education and research for which it is well-known as well as build a pipeline of talent that is interested in pursuing careers in STEM to contribute towards a future with clean water.”

AUS is committed to expanding the learning opportunities for its students that prepares them for their professional journeys after graduation. Collaborations with industry partners are essential to the advancement of the university’s student-centered mission.

For more information on what AUS has to offer, visit

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