College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ME grad student receives industry award

A mechanical engineering graduate student has been recognized by an international optical component manufacturer for his research on microplastic contamination in water.

Anthony LoCurto, a Ph.D. candidate in ME, is a recipient of Edmund Optics’ (EO) 2018 Education Award. The “award is given in recognition of outstanding undergraduate and graduate optics programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at nonprofit colleges and universities worldwide.” The EO Educational Award committee narrowed the hundreds of applicants down to 20 finalists across the globe.

LoCurto won the bronze award in the Americas region. He will receive $5000 in EO products for “the development of a fluorescence microscope setup to detect microplastic levels for different water samples.” This research aims to study issues caused by microplastic contamination in water which if left untreated can have detrimental effects on human health and the environment.

“Most of my work deals with laser diagnostics in combustion environments, so measuring microplastics in water is a new area for me,” said LoCurto. “I hope to be able to quantify the microplastic levels in water sources from around the nation so that the public can get a better understanding of the state of our infrastructure. Generally my work is tailored to defense and transportation; it is nice to be able to impact the more general public with a project like this.”

LoCurto works in the lab of ME Assistant Professor James Michael and plans to complete his degree in the spring of 2022.