Student Spotlight: Gary Wallace — Mitigating Pollutants from Highway Infrastructures … and Other Ways to Impact the Environment

As a junior at Morgan State University (MSU), Gary Wallace is crafting a plan to bring his entrepreneurial interests and education together around water resource engineering. Aiming to attend graduate school and earn a Ph.D, he hopes to ultimately set up a consulting company in the field of environmental engineering.

“I’m working on a lot of projects in the environmental space. I’m building a wind turbine and a hover board, and I’ve designed compost bins. Next year, I’m hoping to take a course at MSU that gives students the fundamentals for starting their own business. And with the research principles I’ve learned in Dr. Hunter’s lab, I’m starting to accumulate a lot of skills to really start thinking about how I can impact major environmental issues,” Wallace explained.

Wallace met James Hunter, Ph.D., Department of Civil Engineering at MSU, while preparing to compete in the National Student Steel Bridge Competition. Serving as the team’s advisor, Dr. Hunter was impressed with Wallace’s interests in sustainability issues and invited him to join his summer research project. Dr. Hunter’s team was interested in developing a methodology using a simple stormwater equation and a readily available data set to calculate probable pollutant loads from the highway environment. The Clean Water Act regulates Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) as the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. Ultimately, this methodology to quantify pollutants in stormwater runoff could provide state transportation agencies with a new way to strategically address TMDL compliance. “This project showed me the impact that research can have on real industry problems and that researchers have the potential to change the way that industries do business,” Wallace said.

“Gary worked extensively on compiling data about pollution related to highway stormwater,” explained Dr. Hunter. “His worked has enabled us to model the long-term hydrologic impacts of Maryland’s highway infrastructure. He has truly been one of the most productive undergraduate research assistants in our group. I am pleased that he will continue to work on stormwater-related projects in my lab this school year.”

Wallace accompanied Dr. Hunter to the MATS UTC Annual Meeting in August, 2015 to help present their poster, Mitigating Pollutants from Highway Infrastructure for TMDL Compliance: Advancing Decision Support. “It was my first major conference and it was so inspiring,” stated Wallace. “I met experts from all of the MATS UTC universities and was able to see the research that’s being done in all of the different transportation sectors. I can definitely see myself working in this industry.”

Wallace is in his third year studying civil engineering at MSU. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society and the MSU Dean’s List 2013-2015.

Wallace may be contacted at gawal1@morgan.edu. Dr. Hunter may be contacted at james.hunter@morgan.edu.