Five minutes of fame: Ph.D. candidate says what’s in the water

Signe Cluiss: What is that bacteria in that petri dish you have in your hand?

Ranga Muthu: It’s not bacteria. It’s actually a silicon wafer sample – kind of an edged sample. I’m trying to do some fluid displacement studies.

Cluiss: What is the end goal of your project?

Muthu: I’m just trying to understand the physics of contaminants: what happens when you have an oil spill, what happens to the soil system and how it impacts the ground water.

Cluiss: Do you think about that every time you get a glass of water from the sink?

Muthu: There are much scarier things than these…. For example, they actually add chlorine in water to disinfect it. There is residual chlorine that actually reacts with organic matter in water…. And you get pharmaceutical drugs. People just flush them down the toilet. They actually end up in your drinking water system. (There was a study of) drinking water across the country in all these major cities, and they actually found 9 to 6 cities have some kind of chemical in their drinking water.

Cluiss: I read that article. Do you know in which publication you read it?

Muthu: It was in every news source you can think of, but I read it in Yahoo. Good or not, I don’t know, but they didn’t test it in Houston. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not. They found some chemicals in Arlington, San Antonio, Austin.

Cluiss: Can you tell me about your third eye? Is that what (a bindi) is, a third eye?

Muthu: Yeah, you can say that, but its just kind of a religious thing that signifies God I guess – to pray to God…. I just try to follow some kind of a rule everyday just to pray to God before coming to school. And, that’s about it. I guess everyone does it – take some extra time to think about him and make sure to hope today is a good day.

Cluiss: Does it help you with your schoolwork?

Muthu: I tend to think so, yeah. I mean, there are many things that are beyond our control. This hurricane is a good example. You’ve got Dolly out there in the ocean, so that’s a good example.

Cluiss: Is there anything in particular you want to say to the student body?

Muthu: Nothing. I wish we had more rain. As an environmental engineer, I’m worried about it. We are seven inches below normal.

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