Xiaying Xin harnesses advanced technologies to keep our water safe and drinkable

Posted on March 06, 2023


Determining how best to filter out emerging contaminants and maintain or improve the health of our environment is the work of researchers like Xiaying Xin, an Assistant Professor who joined the Department of Civil Engineering in the fall of 2022.

Despite its importance, the quality of our drinking water is under attack from numerous sources: algae blooms, forever chemicals, antibiotic-resistant genes, pharmaceutical and personal care products, microplastics, and flame retardants among them. Global warming and extreme weather pose increased risks for water safety. This affects human, plant, and animal health.

For all who enjoy refreshing H2O from the tap, and for the ecosystems that depend on healthy water, a major line of defense from that toxic mix is our water/wastewater treatment and filtration systems.

“My research focuses on water/wastewater treatment and the impact of using advanced technologies such as biofiltration, membranes, advanced oxidation processes, and bubble technologies to remove emerging contaminants and toxic cyanobacteria which can cause algal blooms,” she says. “I also use synchrotron radiation technologies to analyze single cells and other biological models, trying to see how those emerging contaminants affect them at a biological and chemical level.”

Prior to joining Queen’s Engineering, Xin worked as an assistant professor at City University of Hong Kong. She completed her doctoral studies in environmental systems engineering at the University of Regina in 2019 and followed that up with a postdoctoral position at Memorial University. Xin also completed an internship at the Institute for Energy, Environment, and Sustainable Communities.

 

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She was drawn to Queen’s for the opportunities to collaborate with other professors across many different disciplines, and to work with industry partners and government to harness new technologies and techniques in order to improve water/wastewater treatment and the health of local ecosystems.

“I want to help water/wastewater treatment plants, particularly in small and remote communities, improve their treatment capabilities and understand how to remove contaminants and help maintain public health,” she says. “In remote areas, they oftentimes don't have integrated treatment systems, so their water quality is a big issue. I hope to develop technologies that can be used even at a household level to help them improve their water quality.”

Xin also looks forward to supervising graduate students and teaching her first course this term, which regards water treatment and the advanced technologies professionals working in water treatment will be using in their work.

“I enjoy teaching. The students are smart and lovely. I appreciate their energy and I like learning from them.”

She is currently recruiting graduate students with a background in environmental engineering, chemical engineering, environmental chemistry, analytical chemistry, microbiology, and related disciplines to join her research group.

Xin is still settling into Kingston but so far appreciates the warmer climate versus her time in Regina, the proximity to cities like Toronto and Montreal, and the friendliness of the locals and her colleagues. She enjoys living in Kingston, and appreciates to work in a place suiting her perfectly.