Nicolas Peleato

Nicolas Peleato

Assistant Professor

School of Engineering (Okanagan campus)

What is your educational and professional background?

I did my undergrad in chemical engineering, with an environmental specialty, at the University of Toronto. After graduating, I was a consulting engineer in the Toronto area for several years, working on a wide variety of projects, from drinking water treatment systems to landfill designs. Then I decided to return to UofT to do an MASc and PhD in civil engineering, concentrating on drinking water treatment. 

I have worked and studied in many fields (biomedical engineering, supercomputer R&D, machine learning, etc.) and enjoy bringing my cross-disciplinary experiences to environmental engineering teaching and research. 

Why engineering?

I have always loved the idea of applying our scientific knowledge towards the tangible improvement of our lives and the planet. I’m not sure I ever grew out of the “why phase” of childhood, and in school my science teachers (actually engineers) were the ones who encouraged and rewarded curiosity. Also, engineering runs in my family, including my grandfather, a chemical engineer who produced water treatment chemicals in Spain years ago. So, who knows, maybe my choice was inevitable. 

What are your research/teaching interests and current projects?

My focus is on drinking water treatment, which truly is a very wide field, when you consider that it encompasses the protection of source waters, distribution systems, planning for climatic changes, public health impacts, etc. Currently, I am interested in researching and developing improved monitoring techniques and figuring out how to best utilize the generated data. In particular, my research program focuses on low-cost spectroscopic methods to analyze organic matter in water.  These methods can aid in the automation of treatment processes, enable rapid detection of impacts in source waters, and provide better insight into the interaction between organic material and treatment processes. I believe that in order to fully leverage the data generated by these methods, applying recent developments in data science/machine learning is a promising route. 

How do you hope your work will impact society?

Water resources play an essential role in public health, food production, industry, and environmental health, to name just a few areas. However, we often overlook and take for granted the availability of clean and safe water. There are serious growing pressures on our water supplies, including population growth, urbanization, and changes associated with climate change. Some estimate that 30 per cent more freshwater will be needed by 2030 to satisfy our demands, all the while mitigating these growing pressures. My hope is that my work can contribute to improving our understanding of our impacts on water resources, while at the same time present economical solutions which address these challenges. 

What are you passionate about outside work?

I like to spend time outdoors when I get the chance. In grad school I picked up distance running for stress relief and now it has stuck. My wife and I also enjoy cooking together, which works well in combination with running.

Department/School profile