Mari Winkler joined the CEE department as assistant professor in environmental engineering this April. Settling in to her new city of Seattle, Winkler most recently hails from Belgium where she worked in the Biosystems Engineering Department at Ghent University with the prestigious Marie Curie post-doctoral fellowship.
Originally from Germany, Winkler’s scientific career has brought her around the world. She studied at the University Duisburg Essen, University of British Columbia, Columbia University, and the University of New South Wales, and received her PhD in Environmental Biotechnology at Delft University of Technology. After her PhD, Winkler went into industry, working with engineering companies to build and construct wastewater treatment plants, upgrading plants and finding new technologies to make treatment processes better.
CEE and the Seattle area felt like a natural fit for Winkler. “I felt very comfortable coming here. When I came here, the people were so nice, and the students were very happy, and they are a very good indicator if the environment is really good.” Her partner of eleven years, a software engineer, also finds Seattle a great location for his career and their shared love of surfing.
Winkler brings a strong background of process engineering, microbiology, resource recovery and innovative wastewater and sludge treatment. Her research will include enhanced nitrogen removal processes, such as the new Anammox technology, which, according to Winkler, is “saving a lot of costs in treatment plants and footprint, and it’s environmentally friendly.”
Winkler will also focus on aerobic granular sludge. While implemented full-scale in Europe, the technology has yet to be executed in the United States. Wastewater treatment plants “consume a lot of space, and this technology narrows it down to 25% of what it was before,” explains Winkler. “It consumes less energy due to its compact structure, about 25%, and saves 35% of the costs for construction because it’s more compact.” Her research will additionally extend to phosphorus removal and recovery, biosolid treatment, such as end-of-pipe wastewater treatment, and microbial ecology.
In her free time, she enjoys music, running, and capoeira. But for Winkler, having fun and engaging in research are one and the same. “Part of my hobby is research; I’m very passionate about my research and I love to see young people doing research and supporting them.”
Watch Mari Winkler’s Tedx Talk, “How can we benefit from human waste?”, on resource recovery.