She earned her doctorate in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research focused on substrate interactions of gasoline aromatics and oxygenates. As a post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, she developed and implemented research programs in collaboration with scientists and engineers at other universities, consulting firms, and the U.S. Air Force on the remediation of sites impacted with contaminant mixtures. Following teaching assignments at UC Berkeley and Stanford University between 1992 and 2000, Rula was selected as a National Science Foundation Engineering Education Scholar for Excellence in Engineering Education. She has served as a principal investigator and project manager for three applied research projects funded through the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, an independent environmental research program for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Focusing on emerging contaminants in natural and treatment environments, Rula has led many research and demonstration efforts. Her work during the past two decades has promoted awareness and improved the understanding of the sources, occurrence, fate and transport, and behavior of several of the most challenging environmental contaminants to date, including perfluorinated compounds, 1,4-dioxane, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) and other fuel oxygenates, perchlorate, N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs).
In 2010, Rula earned an Industry Recognition Award for her outstanding contribution as a member of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council's Remediation Risk Management team. She also is among the key researchers engaged in the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering program, which brings together emerging engineering leaders from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical work and leading edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors.