Protecting Our Most Precious Natural Resource

How Kristin Sample-Lord, PhD, is advancing research in water security and environmental protection

By Kiera Daly Soltis

Professor Kristin Sample-Lord and other researchers observe a novel testing method in the lab
Kristin Sample-Lord, PhD, and members of her research team demonstrate a novel testing method to visiting researchers to support multi-university collaborations and enable wider adoption of the new technique. PHOTO: VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY/PAUL CRANE

Kristin Sample-Lord, PhD, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and key faculty member of the Center for Resilient Water Systems, was awarded a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2022 to advance research in water security and environmental protection.

The five-year grant for her project, “Coupled Phenomena Resilience and Dynamics in Bentonite Barriers,” is focused on bentonite, a clay material used to protect industrial, municipal and radioactive waste from reaching water supplies and the environment.

The grant will allow her to study the long-term effectiveness of these barriers under changing and intensifying environmental conditions they are likely to experience over their design life.

“This research is as important as having safe drinking water and places to live,” said Dr. Sample-Lord. “All across the world we construct facilities to safely contain wastes and hazardous chemicals, but it is inevitable that they still leak to some degree. We’re trying to limit the extent to which that happens.”

The award will also support educational mentorship and outreach for Villanova students and other visiting undergraduates, as well as middle and high school girls and women in STEM fields.

“We are developing educational resources that will be shared internationally through the geoenvironmental community,” she says. “The undergrads from visiting universities will bring the learned outreach activities back to their schools to create a compounding impact.”


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