Skip to Main Content

New ABE professors water safety research assumes prominent role during pandemic

Starting in a new position during the middle of a pandemic is challenging. For Caitlin Proctor, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering (ABE) and environmental and ecological engineering, it was also in keeping with an already tumultuous year.   

Proctor began in her position this semester, after two years as the Lillian Gilbreth Postdoctoral Fellow in the College of Engineering. During her fellowship, Proctor researched drinking water and the ecological and biological interactions that affect its safety.     

“I have been working in water safety for a while,” Proctor said. “I found this niche early on in my career. It’s not just a matter of science; water safety is also about understanding infrastructure, codes and policies.”   

Proctor collects water samples as part of her research.
Proctor collects water samples as part of her research.

Proctor’s work, which focuses chiefly on water quality within buildings, became especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, as buildings and their water systems stood dormant for months at a time. “When water sits still in the pipes for long periods of time it creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and metals to get into the water,” she explained.   

Over the past year, Proctor worked with other Purdue researchers on a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded study exploring what happens to a building’s plumbing ecosystem when it shuts down for long periods. The study, published in the American Water Works Association Water Science journal, garnered significant press coverage, including from The New York Times.   

Proctor is now engaged in regional work regarding water safety that involves issuing guidance and best practices for when buildings reopen to the public and employees. Proctor said the work would continue even as she begins in her new faculty position.  

“Traveling during a pandemic can be complicated,” Proctor added. “But teaching during a pandemic, that’s a whole new kind of adventure.”   

Featured Stories

Mature open oak woodland with a diverse understory after implementing a shelterwood harvest and prescribed fire as stewardship practices.
Publication Teaches Landowners How to Support Oak-Hickory Ecosystems

Oak-hickory forests, which are comprised of a variety of different tree species, shrubs, grasses,...

Read More
A picture of the dairy judging team with their awards. Pictured from left to right are Emma Townsend, Evan Coblentz, Jackie Mudd, and Alaina Weaver.
Purdue Dairy Judging Team garners success at recent contest

The Purdue Dairy Judging Team competed in the Western National Collegiate Dairy Judging Contest....

Read More
Professor works in lab at Purdue
Purdue-led fishing expedition nets new pupfish family member in New Mexico

Scientists have identified a new member on the genetic family tree of an endangered pupfish...

Read More
pots of spruce and other native trees sit in the bed of a wooden trailer behind the Grounds Department Truck
Thousands of trees, hundreds of volunteers, five years and one giant leap for the Purdue Arboretum

The clayey Indiana soil, still saturated from the last spring shower, squishes under shovels. The...

Read More
Alex Dudley holds a black vulture; Alex is pictured through a hole in a rock formation; Alex holds her camera in front of a forested mountain landscape.
Meet FNR Outstanding Senior Alex Dudley

From her research on black vulture ecology in the Zollner lab and on digital forestry under Dr....

Read More
Yellow flowers against a leafy green background
April showers bring May flowers to Jules Janick Horticulture Garden

The sweet smell of hundreds of blossoms draws pollinators and people alike to the Jules Janick...

Read More
To Top