Charles de Lannoy always wanted to use his technical skills to help the environment. Now, his lab at McMaster is doing just that.
De Lannoy's lab is part of an interdisciplinary group of McMaster researchers working with Six Nations of the Grand River to improve water quality on Indigenous reserves.
Along with analyzing the contaminants in the water, de Lannoy and his team are developing nanocomposite membranes that not only filter water, but also resist getting clogged with biofilms, bacteria and other foulants.
And because the membranes are electrically conductive, he wants to develop them into sensors that will track what kind of material is accumulating on their surface over time.
For de Lannoy, university isn’t just a place for students to learn skills and eventually find good jobs: it’s a place to learn about humanity, and how eventually to benefit humanity in some way.
“The larger point of engineering is service to society,” he says. “If you’re just an engineer – if all you know is the technicality – then you’ll be doing technical work without an understanding of how it will improve society, without understanding why humanity is so beautiful, and why your technological work should be for the good of humanity.”