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Christelle Sawaya

University of Southern California, PhD Environmental Engineering

EREF Scholar 2023

The research focuses on addressing the environmental impact of ‘forever chemicals’ known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in landfill leachate. These chemicals pose a serious threat to both the environment and human health. Landfill leachate, which contains high concentrations of PFAS, can contaminate soil and groundwater if not properly managed. I aim to investigate whether anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs) can effectively remove PFAS from landfill leachate. AnMBRs are promising because they combine anaerobic degradation with microfiltration and have the potential to cultivate specialized microbial communities capable of breaking down PFAS. This research will provide insights into PFAS removal using AnMBRs and identify the microbes involved. Advanced molecular biology techniques and precise mass measurements will be used to analyze PFAS and their transformation products. Developing efficient PFAS remediation methods for landfill leachate is crucial for environmental protection.”


Christelle graduated with B.E and M.S in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Lebanese American University (LAU), Lebanon. During her studies, she developed an interest in research and has been actively involved in attending conferences and workshops to gain expertise and develop further her research. She came to the US in 2021 to pursue her PhD and work with Professor Adam Smith.