Student Profile: Wern Shing Ng

Wern Shing Ng

University of Wollongong

Biography

Wern Shing (Nicole) Ng is a third year Bachelor of Mathematics student majoring in Applied Statistics at the University of Wollongong. Her academic interests involve econometrics, financial modelling and biostatistics. Academics aside, she likes playing the piano and violin, and also enjoys swimming. Nicole’s accomplishments at UOW include being awarded both the Undergraduate Excellence and Faculty Merit Scholarships, as well as being awarded a place on the Dean’s List in 2016.

In recognition of her achievements, she has been employed as a Peer Academic Study Sessions (PASS) leader in the Peer Learning unit, and as a Math & Stats resource development partner in the Learning Development Unit at UOW. Off campus, she enjoys working casually as an assistant instructor at KUMON, where she shares her interest in Mathematics with children of all ages.

After enrolling in an Applied Mathematical Modelling subject taught by Dr Mark Nelson at UOW in 2016, she gradually developed a strong interest in the use of mathematical modelling in environmental engineering. Due to her father’s long-lived passion in aquaculture, she has chosen to undertake a project involving micro-algae harvesting and wastewater treatments. Upon completing the AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship program, she hopes to graduate in July 2017 before continuing onto pursuing an Honours Degree.

Harvesting Algae: The Green Gold of The Future

The world has a serious, and possible fatal, addiction to petrochemicals. Almost 80% of energy consumed across the world comes from fossil fuels. Biofuels are a promising solution to reduce the world’s dependence upon a diminishing resource. Where do biofuels come from? One way to obtain biofuels is to use microalgae to remove the organic pollutants that are present in municipal wastewater. This serves a dual purpose. Firstly, contaminated wastewaters are cleaned before their discharge into the environment. Secondly, as they grow the algal biomass can be harvested and used for a variety of applications including the production of biofuels and for producing valuable substances used as feed, food and in the nutraceutical/pharmaceutical industries. Interest in the production of biofuels has gained momentum in recent years as they provide a ‘green’ alternative to exhaustible and environmentally unsafe fossil fuels.

The research component of this project is to extend an engineering model for the biological treatment of wastewater to include terms representing both light `shading’ and harvesting. (Light shading is the phenomenon by which the presence of biomass at the top of a bioreactor reduces the rate of growth in other regions of the bioreactor due to their reducing the intensity of light penetrating into them). The new model will be analysed to identify the strategy that maximises the harvesting of biomass whilst ensuring that the concentration of organic pollutants in the effluent stream of the treatment plant is below a specified level.

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