August 15, 2011

Kristin Brassett began her academic career at LSU as an art major but soon realized her passion was studying the environment. She found her fit in the College of Engineering’s chemical engineering (ChE) program.

As an undergraduate student, Brassett worked closely with Dr. Louis Thibodeaux, Jesse Coates professor of chemical engineering, for her senior research course, ChE 4222. Knowing Brassett’s passion for the environment, Thibodeaux charged Brassett with researching the theory of SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool).

SWAT is a river basin-scale model to simulate the quality and quantity of surface and ground water and predict the environmental impact of land management practices on different soil patterns and land use patterns. It is widely used in assessing soil erosion prevention and control, non-point source pollution control and regional management in watersheds.

It was while planning her two-month summer trip to Europe—a graduation present to herself—that Brassett discovered a call for papers for the 2011 International SWAT Conference to be held in Toledo, Spain while she would be in Europe. She decided to submit the abstract from her ChE 4222 class.

To Brasset’s surprise, her paper was accepted into the conference, and she was asked to deliver a 20-minute presentation. “Even though I was nervous, I was so excited to represent LSU,” said Brassett.

Presenting alongside professionals only attributed to half of Brassett’s nervousness. Two days before the conference, her computer crashed. She traveled by ferry, airplane and train to make it to Toldeo early enough to complete her presentation. Once she arrived, Brassett used a computer at a local University, but she soon realized that all of the software was in Spanish.

“Kristin doing this presentation means to me that, at the undergraduate level, LSU does have students with the interest and necessary skills to do high quality, independent research,” said Thibodeaux.

Brassett took the trip of a lifetime—seeing parts of the world she had always dreamed about and presenting the research she worked diligently on as an LSU undergraduate engineering student. Even more impressive, Brassett has been approached by three highly regarded scientific journals to publish her paper, and her research has also forged a new relationship between the United States Department of Agriculture and Dr. Thibodeaux.

“My interest in preserving the environment led me to my career as a chemical engineer,” said Brassett. “I’ve been very fortunate to work with Dr. Thibodeaux on such an important project. LSU has given me the opportunity to make a real impact, and I’m so grateful for that.”

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For more information, contact Cassie Arceneaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092.



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