William J. Blanford

William J. Blanford

Assistant Professor
Environmental Remediation

Science Building, Room D202
Phone: 718-997-3303

Research Interests

Contaminant Hydrogeology: My research program is focused on evaluation of processes controlling the fate and transport of microbial and organic chemical pollutants in groundwater and development of remediation methods to address contaminated sites.

Specific Interests:

  • Determination of the distribution organic chemical between environmental phases (e.g. air, water, soil, etc.) and remedial phases (e.g. solubilization agents, sorbents, etc.).
  • Fate and transport of viruses and parasites in groundwater systems.
  • Evaluation of the fate and transport of pathogens and organic pollutants in stream/aquifer systems.
  • Development of treatment systems for hazardous waste sites and river water.
Research Philosophy: My research program is directed toward preserving and protecting the quality and quantity of water resources. This is one of the most important and exciting research areas of geosciences today. To contribute to that effort, my students and I evaluate the factors that govern the circulation of water and the transport, fate, and remediation of waterborne microbial pathogens and chemicals in subsurface and surface environments. In this pursuit, we integrate elements of hydrology, geology, microbiology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and environmental engineering. Within the past couple of years my research has primarily focused on improving the efficacy of cyclodextrin, a cyclic sugar, as an agent for remediation hazardous waste sites.  That has involved development of innovative theoretical models and collection of data on the phase distribution of organic chemicals as a function of environmental and engineering variables for cyclodextrin remediation systems. Due to the applied nature of my research, my students and I often must learn about public policy and finance, as well as plumbing, electrical wiring, and how to operate a drill rig while performing research, but also how to use a wide range of chemical and analytical instruments and computational models.
Teaching Philosophy and Interests
Enabling students to achieve intellectual enlightenment, gain practical knowledge, and develop better learning skills are the primary goals of my teaching efforts. My teaching style encourages all students to be actively involved when learning as a single large group and learning from each other small breakout groups and through a peer review system to develop their technical writing skills.  Over my time as a professor I have altered my teaching style to address four major problems 1) the high dropout rate of 1st year students; 2) the poor technical writing and public speaking skills of many students; 3) the unsustainably low numbers of students choosing geology or environmental science as their major; and 4) the insufficient mathematical skills of upper level students.  To address this situation and instill good learning habits of attending class and being engaged, I modified my approach and interspersed my lecture with small breakout groups in which the students worked with each other, myself and the TA on short questions on the subject that day.  To instill the habit of steady learning rather than cramming, I chose to have courses forego tests and instead examine with weekly quizzes. Time and logistical concerns are the primary reason why technical reports are rarely assigned in large classes.  To overcome this, I devoted time in class to teach basic methods for gathering and reporting original and unoriginal information in a technical report.  To further draw in the students, I attempted to connect geology and environmental science to outside fields by giving interested students opportunities for extra credit by giving short presentation to the class.  To improve their talks, I brainstormed with them to locate topics that involved as aspect of geology and their career interest.  For graduate students I assist them in the development of talks and papers that are both related to the class and to a component of their research. In various forms this has involved literature reviews, usage of advanced statistical analysis to assist in the collection and analysis of data, and development of computational simulations of ground and surface water flow within their field site.