Ph.D. Student in Civil Engineering and Life Sciences
Enrica Balboni of Notre Dame’s Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geosciences from the University of Ferrara in Italy. During her undergraduate and graduate programs, she conducted research in mineralogy and crystal chemistry. In 2008-2009, she was awarded a one-year internship at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. During that internship, she decided to pursue doctoral studies in the United States.
Now at Notre Dame, Enrica is working under the supervision of Prof. Peter Burns, and combining her interest in geosciences, mineralogy, and crystal chemistry to the environmental behavior of actinides.
Enrica explains: "I am currently studying the incorporation of uranium and neptunium into minerals present in the subsurface, such as sulfates and carbonates. The Department of Energy identifies these radionuclides—neptunium, in particular—as subsurface contaminants of concern. The incorporation of neptunium into minerals is important in determining the long-term behavior of this element in the environment. The specific objectives of this project are to develop a detailed understanding of the factors that impact the incorporation of neptunium and uranium into minerals that may either attenuate or be used in a designed remediation strategy.
“I am also working on synthesizing and studying the properties of new uranium inorganic compounds using hydrothermal synthesis,” she said. “The goal here is improving the knowledge of the crystal chemistry of uranyl-based compounds.”
Enrica enjoys the academic life at Notre Dame: “As a student here at Notre Dame in Prof. Burns’ group, I have the opportunity to learn a wide variety of analytical techniques and laboratory skills. I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to supervise the research of three undergraduates and one high school student. I have also attended national conferences and meetings. All the skills I am learning as a graduate student here will be valuable assets in pursuing my dream of becoming a research professor.”