UMBC faculty and alumnus honored by Maryland Science Center

A UMBC faculty member and a UMBC alumnus were recognized by the Maryland Science Center for their outstanding work in engineering and science. Lee Blaney, associate professor of chemical, biochemical and environmental engineering, was one of two people to receive the 2017 Outstanding Young Engineer Award, and Phillip Graff ’08, physics, was awarded one of two 2017 Outstanding Young Scientist Awards. The ceremony, hosted annually by the Maryland Science Center and the Maryland Academy of Sciences, highlights the work being done by young scientists and engineers in Maryland to advance the fields.

In his work, Blaney develops technology used to recover nutrients, such as phosphorus, from poultry litter. The phosphorus found in poultry litter often saturates the soil on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, making the water that runs off into the Chesapeake Bay a hazard for aquatic life. The technology he is testing in his lab could reduce the amount of phosphorus that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay from manure by about 90 percent.

I was extremely delighted to receive the 2017 Maryland Outstanding Young Engineer Award. Of course, this award reflects a much larger team, and I would like to acknowledge my graduate and undergraduate research assistants for their hard work in the laboratory. This award is theirs as much as mine,” Blaney says. “Much of our research focuses on environmental issues in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and so it was a particular honor to be recognized by the Maryland Academy of Sciences. One of my mentors likes to say that every award comes with a great responsibility to live up to the associated expectations. So, we are looking forward to continuing our research to ensure environmental quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the coming decades.”

Earlier this year, Blaney received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation to address contaminants of emerging concern, from personal care products and pharmaceuticals, found in the Gwynns Falls watershed.

“Dr. Blaney is a dedicated professor with unique and innovative research ideas. He is a great mentor who encourages his students to think about research problems from multiple angles and asks tough questions to push us to reach for the best solution,” says Mamatha Hopanna, Ph.D. ‘22, environmental engineering, who works in Blaney’s lab.

Blaney is the faculty advisor of the UMBC’s Engineers Without Borders student organization. He has led several trips to Kenya, where he and his students developed a clean-water supply for a village with a population of 500.

Graff currently works as a data scientist and astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore. He has industry experience in many fields including cybersecurity. Previously, he worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and helped develop an algorithm for the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory. He has also developed algorithms to protect the nation’s computer networks for the Department of Homeland Security National Cyber Protection System.

The Outstanding Young Scientist Award and Outstanding Young Engineer Award have been presented each year since 1959 and 1988, respectively. To be eligible for the award, nominees must be 35 or younger if working in academic settings, or younger than 40, if working in industry.

Banner image: Lee Blaney. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC. Videos courtesy of the Maryland Science Center.