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Bandolin studies the estuarine turbidity maximum

In 2004, Nirzwan Bandolin was finishing up his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at the University of Utah when he decided to enroll in an environmental course. The teacher’s lectures on global changes sparked his interest into environmental issues.

Bandolin went on to be a math professor at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Idaho. He found himself bringing environmental issues into the classroom. “I had the students work on a simple modeling project,” Bandolin says. “They would look up temperature changes over a period of time and come up with an equation that represents the data and lets them predict what it will be in the future.”

Bandolin realized he wanted to be more involved in the environmental field and started looking for a doctorate program in environmental engineering. Yet he discovered that most of the degrees were in civil engineering. He was looking for something on a larger scale that was more inter-disciplinary in nature.

He learned that the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction (CMOP) at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was one of only a few truly inter-disciplinary environmental engineering programs with people from a variety of backgrounds, including chemical engineering.

Today, Bandolin is a graduate student in the environmental science and engineering track at OHSU. He is working side-by-side with scientists and engineers looking at everything from the smallest microbes to the large-scale movement of water through the Columbia River estuary.

The inter-relationships between species in the estuary are precisely the kind of large-scale thinking about systems that drew him to CMOP. “I wanted to start working with the estuary turbidity maxima, to understand how it is a primary productivity area for the estuary and food chain, “ Bandolin says. ETM is the circulation of salt water with fresh water in the estuary that traps particles and promote biogeochemical, microbial and ecological processes.

As a student, he enjoys the educational opportunities at OHSU. The class sizes are small. There is greater interaction between scientists and students. “It’s nice to just be able to walk across the hallway and talk to your advisor,” Bandolin says.

Bandolin is still passionate about teaching. Last summer, he had the opportunity to mentor high school and undergraduate interns at CMOP. He worked with them to study the estuary turbidity maxima. They looked into the scientific methods for indentifying and locating the ETM. “It was a lot of fun to teach them the science,” Bandolin says. “It was a very rewarding experience.”

Whether it is being the student or the teacher, Bandolin views his career like science. “You come into it thinking one thing and then, like most science, it turns your world upside down and you’re into something else,” Bandolin says.