NEWT Undergraduates: Shared Experiences in Mentoring

Katie Sue Pascavis
Katie Pascavis, Mentee

I met Dr. Paul Westerhoff in high school, and he generously mentored me on a science fair project about arsenic absorption. This experience allowed me to witness the abundance of research opportunities at ASU and how encouraging the NEWT faculty are towards students looking to get involved in research. After touring NEWT’s lab as a freshman, I reached out to Dr. Westerhoff about becoming involved. I was really excited about their innovative “germicidal glowsticks,” or UV-C side-emitting optical fibers. He tasked me with creating a “germicidal jellyfish,” a floating UVC disinfection system that runs off of solar power and inactivated pathogens using hanging UVC optical fibers. Under Dr. Westerhoff’s and Zhe Zhao’s mentorship, I learned about modeling UVC systems and how to make side-emitting optical fibers. While the COVID-19 pandemic limited my ability to attend school and the lab in person, NEWT allowed me to intern virtually and continue research despite the public health crisis. Though I couldn’t help with the in-person prototyping, the first proof of concept for the Germicidal Jellyfish has since been created and successfully tested! I am also blessed to work under Dr. Shahnawaz Sinha in computer-aided design for a UVC flow reactor and designing larger germicidal jellyfish systems. I’m very grateful to have joined the lab as a freshman so that I get multiple years of kind mentorship and fascinating research opportunities through NEWT!

I have worked with Katie since the first year I came to ASU for a fun NEWT research project named “Germicidal jellyfish”. This project uses solar panels to transfer sunlight into power and charge UV-C LEDs. By using Side-emitting optical fibers, germicidal UV-C light is distributed throughout the water tank and inactivated pathogens. She successfully finished the system design and the project is moving to the next step. She is creative and motivated, and I am very grateful to work with her! I got my Bachelor’s Degree of Environmental Engineering in University of Science and Technology Beijing in 2018 and my Master’s Degree of Environmental Engineering in University of Hong Kong in 2019. Since then, I have been working in Dr. Paul Westerhoff's lab at ASU and joined the NEWT group. My research focuses on using side emitting optical fibers for surface biofilm control and planktonic bacteria disinfection. I definitely learned a lot from Paul and a previous NEWT PhD student, Mariana Lopes.

Zhe Zhao
Zhe Zhao, Mentor