Elmira Ramazanova

Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering
Degree pursuing: PhD in energy, environmental & chemical engineering
Hometown: Astana, Kazakhstan

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
Nazarbayev University in Astana, ‎Kazakhstan

What motivated you to earn a graduate engineering degree?
I’ve enjoyed doing research since undergrad because it’s rewarding to tackle challenging problems, it allows me to stay curious and I constantly learn new things. That is why I want a job involving research, and a graduate engineering degree is a perfect way for me to prepare and improve my skills.

Please provide your lab and a description of research.
I work in the Aquatic Chemistry Lab led by Dan Giammar, PhD. My current research aims to understand the adsorption mechanisms of rare earth elements (REE) on the surface of abundant minerals such as kaolinite.

Being extremely important ingredients in technology and sustainable energy production, REEs are known to occur in concentrated ion-adsorption ores consisting mainly of clay minerals. However, it’s not known what processes govern interfacial chemistry in such deposits and how changes in aquatic chemistry affect REE's adsorption on clays. I’m developing a thermodynamic model to describe adsorption based on macroscopic adsorption experiments and spectroscopy analyses. The results of my research will help to describe the fate and transport of REEs and find new sources.

What drew you to this area of research?
I have been interested in aquatic chemistry ever since I took water treatment classes during my undergrad as water is essential to many aspects of our lives. Not only is water important for drinking, but also for the transport of nutrients and critical elements in the environment. In particular, systems involving water and minerals in subsurface environments present challenges due to their complexity but are very important in the context of remediation, carbon dioxide storage and the formation of deposits.

Why did you pick WashU?
When I first heard of WashU and searched for information, its academic infrastructure and top-notch faculty are what drew my attention. I also liked the interdisciplinary environment of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering. The school is well-equipped with analytical equipment, so students get a chance to learn how to use the facilities. Being able to have rotations before deciding on the lab and funding were also important factors in choosing WashU.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?
Every instructor is unique in their teaching style and I cannot select one over another. The main characteristic of all the instructors I took classes from at WashU is a contagious enthusiasm about the topic and striving for excellence in their teaching.

What advice would you give to a new student?
I would recommend taking your mental health seriously and practicing good mental hygiene. Sometimes experiments do not work, and it’s important not to ruminate on it. Being resilient to stress will make the PhD journey more enjoyable.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?
I like how affordable St. Louis is. It’s possible to find affordable housing near campus and walk to your lab. Speaking of campus, that’s my second favorite thing. The campus is beautiful, and I never stop finding interesting places or small architectural details in buildings.

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?
I would recommend volunteering at different events. There are organizations like the Association of Graduate Engineering Students (AGES) and graduate student governments at each school. There is always something going on at WashU, and it’s nice to get to know people and gain experience in organizing events.

What are your plans for the future?
For the next few years, I plan to stay at WashU doing my research, advancing current boundaries of knowledge in my field, and learning new techniques and analytical equipment. In the long run, I’m not sure right now but I definitely want to be involved in research.