3MT 2023 Finalist  Ola Mabrouk

Ola Mabrouk

Chemistry, College of Natural and Applied Sciences

Throwing Gold into Wastewater

Introduce yourself…

I'm Ola, I am a third year PhD student in McDermott group, Chemistry Department, Faculty of Science. I have a Master's degree in Pharmaceutical analytical chemistry. I am a wife and a mom to a handsome 3-year old boy.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My research objective is to develop a method that can be used for routine analysis of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in wastewater treatment facilities. First, I design and synthesize 3D, hybrid nanomaterials that provide a platform for rapid, reliable, and reproducible measurement of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Then, I employ in-solution surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) for quantitative and sensitive measurements. The goal is to apply this method to several pharmaceutical targets and to mixtures of several contaminants, to examine the breadth of the methodology. I also plan to use a handheld portable laser instrument for those measurements.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

The idea of presenting my research work in 3 minutes was very challenging! I was always inspired by Einstein's quote “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” Presenting a 3-MT made me focus on the bigger picture and the significance of my research. It also helped me learn how to simplify complex ideas and present those ideas to the public.

What inspires you to do research?

First, I believe research is a learning experience that transforms you and you learn a lot along the way. Second, research and problem-solving is the only way we can make a change and help make this world a better place.

What are three key words important to your 3MT?

wastewater, pharmaceutical contamination, gold nanoparticles

How does your research impact local, provincial, or global communities at large?

Our research presents a method that is cost-effective, environment-friendly and can be implemented on a large scale for monitoring of pharmaceutical contaminants in wastewater. The implementation of the proposed method at wastewater treatment facilities will help make our waters safer for aquatic creatures and humans.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

My supervisor of course! Dr. Mark T. McDermott. Our collaborators Dr. Yaman Boluk and Bouthaina Aoudi (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta), and all the McDermott group members.

I would also dedicate it to my mom and my family for their incredible support throughout my life.

3MT Image Description: The image on the left consists of 3 parts explaining how pharmaceuticals contaminate our drinking water. It shows drugs being discarded, which then go into river or lake waters. Fish and aquatic creatures are in turn exposed to those chemicals and then finally this same water flows into our taps.
The image on the right is a picture of a kid drinking water.

Watch Ola's Three Minute Thesis