Written by Andy McGlashen, Environmental Science and Policy Program
Pouyan Nejadhashemi is very clear about the purpose of his work.
"The ultimate goal is pollution reduction," he said, adding that using models of pollutants' paths is one of the best ways to achieve that goal, "because with modeling we can see the whole picture."
Nejadhashemi is especially interested in models of how water and the pollutants in it move through and above soil. For instance, he said, 20 pounds of fertilizer applied to a given parcel of land may have a much different effect on a water resource than if the same amount of fertilizer were used elsewhere, due to variations in soil type, vegetation and the slope of the land.
An assistant professor of water resources engineering jointly appointed by the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Nejadhashemi teaches a course in land and water conservation engineering. Beginning in 2010, he'll also teach a new graduate-level course in environmental modeling.
After receiving his bachelor's and master's degrees from Tehran University - where his father was among his professors - Nejadhashemi earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland. He then spent almost two years at Kansas State University developing an adaptive approach to watershed modeling that involves stakeholders, using their local knowledge to build better models for reducing and cleaning up pollution.
"We start building up trust between the modelers and the stakeholders," he said. "We work with stakeholder groups to see what's best for them."
Nejadhashemi said he hopes to use what he learned in Kansas to provide Michigan's state environmental agencies with better models. Knowing how nutrients and chemicals move through soil is not enough to prevent pollution, he said; researchers should also work with stakeholders to find practical solutions. Such collaboration can help farmers save money by applying fertilizer and pesticides more efficiently, and can put taxpayers' money to better use by employing pollution mitigation measures where they're most effective.