Written by Julie Watterson

Yaewon Park was recently selected for the North Carolina Sea Grant – Water Resources Research Institute, which provides competitive funding for special graduate student opportunities in specific focus areas. Park is working to remove heavy metals from well water. Her lab work lives up to the mantra of “Think and Do’ as she diligently works alongside her faculty sponsor to bring forth cleaner drinking water as the result.

“I was recently selected for North Carolina Sea Grant (NCSG) – Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) graduate fellow on the research of nanofiber filters for North Carolina well water clean-up,” said Park.

Park is originally from Seoul, South Korea. She graduated from Seoul National University with B.S. and M.S. in Textile Science. In 2014, Park started her doctoral study in Fiber and Polymer Science at NC State with the provost doctoral recruitment fellowship.

Park’s faculty partner at the Wilson College of Textiles  is Dr. Ericka Ford, assistant professor in the department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science and The Nonwovens Institute.

Park and Ford worked to create a water filtering method involving fungi and nonwovens. “A certain type of soil fungus can produce manganese oxides which are natural adsorbents for various contaminants. We grew such soil fungi on the nanofiber surfaces and coated the fibers with the manganese oxides,” said Park.

“Dr. Ford and I are developing bioinspired mineral coating on nanofibers. For instance, we have created calcium carbonate (CaCO3) coated nanofibers by mimicking human bone formation which remove toxic dyes from water,” explained Park.

Her research has  proven practical and effective and her results thus far have been rewarding. “It was exciting to see that our fibers effectively remove heavy metal ions from water in laboratory set-up. With the support of NCSG-WRRI, our fibers will be tested in real contaminated well water in NC. Our research suggests sustainable alternatives to develop functional textiles as well as water filters,” said Park.

Yaewon’s fellowship began on July 15, 2017 and will continue until Feb. 28, 2018.

For information on the NC Sea Grant and WRRI naming five graduate fellows visit: https://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/news/2017/07/nc-sea-grant-and-wrri-name-five-graduate-fellows/