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

almonds on a table with almond milk
Homemade nut-based dairy analogs raise questions about bacterial risks

Many consumers know the food safety risks of dairy products, eggs and raw meat. But they are less...

Read More
Students working in the Skidmore Lab inside Nelson Hall of Food Science.
CH4 Global partners with Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute to combat methane emissions in the cattle industry

The Food Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing Institute (FEMI), housed within Purdue...

Read More
Purdue MANRRS pose with chapter of the year award at MANRRS38
Purdue MANRRS receives chapter of the year award at national conference, making history

For the first time since its founding in 1990, the Purdue University College of...

Read More
A bottle of Boiler Bee Honey sits on the edge of chrome table in Skidmore lab with two students cooking in labcoats and hairnets in the background.
The sweet (and spicy) taste of victory—National Honey Board funds a food science development competition at Purdue

In the past few years, specialty sauces like hot honey combined the classic warm, sweet feeling...

Read More
lab grown meat
Survey tallies consumer attitudes toward lab-grown meat alternatives

Many consumers view conventional meats as both tastier and healthier than laboratory-grown...

Read More
Against a black backdrop, three dozen egg carton are neatly arranged to surround many loose brown eggs
Butcher Block adds eggs from chickens fed orange corn

The Boilermaker Butcher Block’s selections will now include farm fresh eggs laid by Purdue...

Read More
To Top