Helena M. Solo-Gabriele, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, a civil and environmental engineer specializing in water quality and the processes that affect contaminant fate and transport, has been named a fellow by the ASCE Board of Direction.
Solo-Gabriele is a professor at the University of Miami College of Engineering (UM CoE) in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, where she has served as faculty member since 1995. Her research focuses on problems that relate the environment to public health, and some of her most significant work has been on arsenic in wood and bacteria in beach sands.
Her research team documented the releases of arsenic from a wood treatment preservative called chromated copper arsenate (CCA), the chemical’s inclusion within the wood disposal sector, and its inadvertent integration into landscaping mulch. The team also identified a method of mitigating contamination of recycled wood and developed technologies to identify and sort wood containing CCA during the wood waste recycling process. This resulted in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection adopting a guidance document developed by Solo-Gabriele and her research team. Language from their document was integrated into the Florida Administrative Code, which requires solid waste operators to follow best management practices when recycling construction and demolition wood.
Utilizing her research on bacteria at beaches, Solo-Gabriele’s team documented a new source of fecal bacteria at recreational beaches – beach sand. They have also evaluated the mechanisms by which fecal bacteria are accumulated and released from the intertidal zone (the area that is above water at low tide and underwater at high tide). Solo-Gabriele has published papers about what puts beaches at higher risk, and has identified beach management strategies that minimize sand contamination and contribute to improved water quality at recreational beaches. In addition, she has contributed to an epidemiologic study showing that bacteria sourced from the intertidal zone correlates with increased disease rates.
Solo-Gabriele continues to make contributions to the environmental engineering field by evaluating human exposure pathways and mitigation strategies for additional contaminants, including the organo-pesticide naled, perfluoroalkyl substances, and oil spill chemicals.
At the UM CoE, she teaches courses in environmental laboratory analyses, engineering systems for disease control and bioremediation, and senior capstone design. Through her courses, research, and professional activities, she has mentored numerous civil and environmental engineers. In her role as associate dean for the CoE, Solo-Gabriele manages research processes throughout the College and coordinates activities to promote faculty research – both individually and in collaboration with each other.
Solo-Gabriele is the past president of the Association of Cuban-American Engineers and prior chair of the Cuban Infrastructure Scholarship Competition, in which students compete to develop innovative solutions to Cuba’s infrastructure needs. She also is the faculty advisor for the UM Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. She has been a professional member of ASCE since 1989 and was a student member before that.
Solo-Gabriele earned bachelor and master’s degrees in civil engineering from the University of Miami. Her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.