Major Qualifying Project
The Major Qualifying Project (MQP) is a high-level research project in the student’s field. Through the MQP, every WPI student has the chance to experience the real-world problem solving that will soon characterize their professional careers. With an Environmental Engineering (EVE) MQP on their resume, WPI students have a leg up on the competition when it comes to launching careers or gaining admission to the best graduate schools.
The MQP involves problems typical of those found in the student's professional discipline and addresses challenging research issues. These qualifying projects are far from trivial; each requires a substantial part of an academic year, culminating in a project report and poster on Project Presentation Day.
Faculty and students in this program participate in projects at the Stantec and Panama City Project Centers.
Meet some of our EVE students, and learn about the real-world problems their MQPs address, and how their MQP experience has direct ties to their success.
Salt Intrusion in Gatun Lake
Assel Akhmetova, ’12, Environmental Engineering
Assel Akhmetova, who came to WPI on a scholarship from her native Kazakhstan, worked on her MQP in the Panama City, Panama Project Center, where the preservation of purity in the drinking water supply was a concern during expansion of the nearby lock system. In accordance with her scholarship conditions, Assel Akhmetova is using her WPI education to solve problems in her native Kazakhstan, where she returned after graduation.
Three objectives were set. The first was to ascertain current water quality conditions in Gatun Lake—the source for Panama City’s water supply—where construction on the canal would occur within the lake’s watershed area. The second was to model current water quality against historic data, and the third was to model future salinity levels following completion of the expansion work, to predict possible changes.
Using software to create a variety of salt intrusion scenarios, Assel Akhmetova and her colleagues found that the lake’s levels of saline would not increase significantly due to lock expansion work, an important finding for Panama City. Learn more…
Flood Mitigation of Macomber’s Way in Marshfield, Massachusetts
Allison Roche, ’12, Environmental Engineering
Marshfield’s English Salt Marsh estuary receives Atlantic tidal flow, as well as flow from North and South Rivers. In recent years, this has produced flooding along the man-made causeway Macomber’s Way that provides the sole access to residences on Trouant’s Island. As the goal of Allison Roche’s project, an economically feasible solution was sought in a design that would protect the environment from scour and erosion while minimizing flooding, and correct problems with flow from two extant culverts.
Extensive background research was undertaken, to produce a solution that would comply with legal requirements for coastal zone management such as highway elevation regulations, and to obtain field data on topography, soil texture and qualities, culvert elevation, and flowrates.
Since a bridge would exceed budgetary restrictions, recommendations were made to immediately replace one culvert with a concrete box type better suited to carry storm surge flow, and also implement a plan for increased road maintenance. The study went on to suggest assessment of the new culvert and fill before future installation of a third culvert, to minimize construction time and assure effective flow control. Learn more…
Green Reverse Osmosis Pretreatment for Shipboard Desalination
Justin Skelly, ’10, Environmental Engineering
The task in this project, completed both on campus at WPI and in Las Cruces, NM, was to reduce maintenance required for reverse osmosis (RO) cartridge replacement in the onboard desalinization process for ships at sea. A solution was sought which would increase cartridge online time while keeping water quality levels high, and also provide a more sustainable overall process.
Testing was performed to calculate efficiency of alternate methods and levels of current post-treatment water quality. In examining technologies available, Justin Skelly’s study found membrane filtration could handle with fewer difficulties seasonal changes in water contamination, temperature and other variables. Footprint—very important in limited shipboard space—and cost factors were also considered.
A dual-media filtration system utilizing sand as well as activated carbon was recommended for removal of both turbidity and organics, followed by cartridge filtration. Cartridge replacement was thus reduced from every 4 days to every 45 days, while annual operating costs were predicted to be lowered by over 80%. Learn more…
Transit-Oriented, Mixed-Use Redevelopment with Infrastructure Improvements in Somerville, MA
Evan Sullivan, ’12, Environmental Engineering
Following a mass transit line extension in this urban area, Evan Sullivan studied the possibilities for mixed-use redevelopment that would bring benefit to all segments of the population and the city as a whole.
After investigating design principles to support the best use of the area, two local approaches were analyzed to incorporate a commuter rail underpass for walkability and connectivity in the neighborhood. Factors in determining the final plan included structural and traffic flow details, as well as economic, environmental and sustainability, political, social, ethical, health and safety, and constructability components.
The project maps a possible transition from light industrial to mixed-use zone, which will provide efficient mass transit alternatives and living possibilities in the area to be repurposed. With consideration for all aspects of urban dwellers’ needs, this MQP creates a design plan for a desirable and practical outcome. Learn more…