LSU Graduate Engineering Student Represents University in Regional Competition for Oil Spill Research

Article originally written by Jose Alejandro Bastidas of the LSU Daily Reveille,published on April 1, 2015. 

Graduate students dream of their work being celebrated by industry leaders and academics alike. For chemical engineering Ph.D student Paria Avij, her research on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is her reality.

Avij received second place at this year’s Society of Petroleum Engineers student presentation contest and will represent the University in the competition April 26.

“It will be a really great honor for me to be a representative of LSU in this region,” Avij said. “Hopefully, I can show that LSU is doing very dynamic research that contributes [to] oil response operations [among other things].”

Avij’s research looks at how breaking waves, the white caps of thousands of bubbles that come toward the beach, is transporting oil and dispersant materials into the atmosphere.

By simulating the breaking waves in the lab and testing different dispersants used in the oil industry, Avij was able to present on which dispersants work to reduce the amount of organic material released that harm the environment and which ones enhance the environmental effects of the spill.

Chemical engineering professor and Vice President of Research and Economic Development Kalliat Valsaraj said Avij’s success comes from her innovative thinking and her dedication to tackling a complicated research area.

“[Avij is] investigating a certain relief mechanism from the surface of the ocean that has not been explored at all, and it’s actually not even been considered in trying to find out how this oil matter gets released into the atmosphere,” Valsaraj said. “What she has shown is that [breaking waves are] an important [transport] vector … I don’t think anyone has really reported [this] in the past.”

Avij, who came to the University from Iran specifically to work under Valsaraj, said her husband motivated her to enter the competition because, even though she’s focused on chemical engineering, her research extends to the environmental and petroleum engineering fields.

Chemical engineering Ph.D student Aaron Harrington said Avij’s ability to succeed in a competition outside the bounds of her primary discipline speaks on her work ethic.

“I think [Avij] is a wonderful example of women in engineering, [which] there aren’t enough,” Harrington said. “I know this is just the beginning … She’s going to go on to do some really awesome stuff.”

Avij said she’s preparing for the regional competition by adding new information to complement her research.

She said she is grateful for the resources and opportunities the University gives engineering students to further their research.

“I devoted most of my time to studying and doing literature review and [have] spent so much time doing experiments in the lab, and I’m so thankful for my adviser and our postdocs who help me a lot,” Avij said. “The best thing a Ph.D student can have in her or his life is to see that her research is beneficial for the community and for people who are in charge to use it in the real world ... [hopefully people can benefit from] what I’ve done [for the past] four years.”

The Society of Petroleum Engineers regional paper contest for Eastern North America will be hosted by Penn State University.


Article by  Jose Alejandro Bastidas of the LSU Daily Reveille