Meet the Researcher, Anjali Mulchandani, Assistant Professor, The University of New Mexico
By Jeanette Torres, NM WRRI Program Coordinator
This month, our spotlight researcher is Anjali Mulchandani, an assistant professor at The University of New Mexico (UNM) for the Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department. She taught Environmental and Water Resources Engineering this past spring, and in the fall she will be teaching Sustainable Engineering. According to Anjali, the most important aspect of her position is to train the next generation of engineers to think critically and compassionately about solving global environmental issues. She believes students must apply a holistic lens to problems they are solving by considering the preservation of the environment and its resources, as well as the communities those resources touch and the economics of developing and implementing new environmental resource sustainability technologies.
Mulchandani has mentored 16 students throughout her career, and currently has six students (one PhD, two MS, two undergraduates, and one high school student) in her research group. One of her MS students, Natalie Gayoso, recently received a New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) Student Water Research Grant for her project entitled, Techno-Economic Analysis to Determine Cost of Atmospheric Water Capture Technologies. Anjali explains that this research will involve atmospheric water harvesting, an innovative decentralized technology that provides clean drinking water from the air by condensing water vapor in the atmosphere. The project’s ultimate goal is to determine locations where this technology could be feasibly applied with an electrical energy grid or renewable energy source powering it. To read more details about this project, please visit the NM WRRI eNewsletter featuring Gayoso’s research located here.
Anjali’s research passions include designing hands-on learning tools, and guiding public outreach initiatives for STEM awareness and engagement among all levels of learners. She is currently the lead researcher for the Environmental Resource Sustainability Group at UNM. She explains this is where her research can converge environmental engineering, materials science, nanotechnology, thermodynamics, and data analytics to design and predict the feasibility of novel water treatment and resource recovery technologies. In addition to her student’s work with atmospheric water harvesting, Mulchandani is also actively researching how to recover metals and energy from various types of waste material.
Four of Anjali’s projects have been funded by several organizations, including the National Science Foundation, PepsiCo, and UNM’s Advance Women in STEM. Her latest funded proposal is entitled, Waste as a Resource: A thermo-chemical System to Recover Metals and Produce Oil from Sewage Sludges, and extends from August 2021 to July 2022. Mulchandani is a member of six professional societies, including the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, American Water Works Association, and the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization. She has been an invited lecturer to several seminars, and has presented her research at over 30 conferences, symposiums and expositions.
Mulchandani received her BS (2014) in civil engineering, focusing on environmental engineering and hydrology concentrations from the University of California in Los Angeles. She obtained both her MS (2016) and PhD (2020) degrees in environmental engineering from Arizona State University in Tempe, and continued her studies as a postdoctoral researcher (2020) in the same field at Stanford University.
Regarding future goals and ambitions, Anjali is dedicated to pursuing her research in environmental engineering and water resources to tackle current and future water scarcity issues and promote resource recovery. She comments that, “the number of people who will be impacted by water scarcity is projected to increase over time… [and] simultaneously, we cannot continue to mine fresh resources and ignore the waste we produce.” Mulchandani aims to integrate this philosophy into her work with her research group, and continue informing her students of ways to better preserve natural resources and the communities who rely upon them. With this in mind, Anjali is optimistic about the future and states that she is “excited to work with creative minds who are excited to make our land safe and habitable.”