Abigail Charest, PhD Candidate

Hometown: Sudbury, MA

Degree: PhD, Civil Engineering

Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I completed the MS in Environmental Engineering as a distance student while working full-time at an engineering consulting firm. It was this experience that led me to choose WPI for my PhD. I truly enjoyed each of the courses I completed for my master’s, and I was impressed by the professors. In particular, I was excited by the opportunity to work with Professor Plummer.

How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
WPI's philosophy of Theory and Practice allowed me to connect with peers in my field as I was pursuing my master’s degree, while also linking me to students on campus.

What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
I think WPI's greatest strengths are the professors. The professors are hardworking, excited by their subjects, and interested in their students’ success.

How have the professors in your department impacted your studies and your life?
I am inspired by Professor Plummer. I look up to her and enjoy the opportunity to be mentored by her. She is enthusiastic about water quality, which makes it exciting to do research with her, and she is invested in WPI as a community.

What are your research projects?
I am working with Professor Plummer on assessing viral pathogen indicator systems. The goal of this research is to examine a variety of traditional and novel indicator systems for assessing viral pathogen risk, either singly or as a toolbox. We are collecting samples of animal feces, wastewaters, source waters, and treated drinking waters throughout the U.S. The samples are monitored for bacterial indicators, coliphages, viral targets, and other physical and chemical water quality parameters. The data is being analyzed to determine statistical relationships between the parameters, seasonal and temporal variations, and indicator specificity.

What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
I am working toward a career in academia and hope to be a professor one day.

Academic or professional awards you have received:

  • Professional Engineer, Massachusetts, License No. 46705, issued 2006
  • Arvid Anderson Fellowship, WPI, 2011-2012
  • Koerner Family Fellowship, WPI, Award of $10,000, 2011
  • Finalist, Value Proposition Presentation, Investing in Ideas with Impact, WPI Graduate Research Achievement Day, Annual Competition, Worcester, MA, 2011
  • Third Place, Poster Competition, Indicators of Viral Pathogen Risk, New England Water Works Association, Annual Conference, Worcester, MA, 2012
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