Waste water as raw material

PhD research Maria van Schaik

Paul Vader, editor HZ Discovery

When Maria van Schaik attended an HZ information session at the end of her secondary school education in her native region of Transylvania (Romania) and she saw pictures of the sea, the Zeeland embankments and waterworks here, she knew she wanted to study in Vlissingen. “I had to go to the sea. I only knew the Black Sea from a single visit. I just forgot that I still had to ask my parents if it was okay.” Fortunately, they agreed.

In the course of her studies, Maria made three choices that were far from easy. After her Aquatic Ecotechnology study far away in the Netherlands, she enrolled in a master’s degree in Water Technology in Leeuwarden, a new and technical subject that had only been briefly discussed during her bachelor’s studies. And now she is working on her PhD dissertation on Water Technology at the HZ research group with the same name. “I like to keep learning,” she says about this in almost accent-free Dutch.

Her PhD research concerns the recovery of useful raw materials from wastewater, such as nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), energy and water. Many techniques and processes have already been developed in this area because of the obvious environmental benefits. Maria develops mathematical models that enable the choice of a particular technique in a specific situation. She not only looks at the efficiency of certain techniques for purifying water and recovering substances, but also at energy and chemical consumption, economic and even social aspects. “It can become very complicated, but my job is to simplify it with models.” She does not carry out measurements on installations herself, but obtains her data from the literature or from the partners of the Interreg project NEREUS that funds her research. She hopes to obtain her PhD next year.

She finds it difficult to answer the question what the future holds for her. “It will probably be a choice between education or business, but I would prefer to combine them.” For the time being she says she likes staying in Zeeland. “I was incredibly lucky to have found this great PhD research.

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