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Ferdi Hellweger studies urban water safety

July 13, 2015

Ferdi Hellweger, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Hellweger is fascinated by the idea that city dwellers worldwide could someday swim in urban waterways like Boston’s Charles River, as they did decades ago.

Existing tests for water-borne pathogens are slow and imprecise, making it difficult to know at a given moment which sections of a river are safe. To fix that, Hellweger builds mathematical models to depict and analyze how plumes of bacteria move through creeks, lakes, rivers, and other water bodies located in cities. By tracking the path of E.coli and other microbes, Hellweger is discovering more about the conditions that sustain or derail such pathogens.

Hellweger’s models will help policymakers and city residents predict, in real time, the location and levels of bacteria and where it is safe to swim—bringing his vision of urban swimming holes one step closer to reality.