Guest Column | December 11, 2017

Water Science, For The Win

By Kelsey Beveridge, Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF)

The Water Environment & Reuse Foundation and the National Water Research Institute recognize two pioneering researchers.

Every day, new and innovative research in the water sector is conducted by scientists and engineers with long-established careers, as well as those starting to make a name for themselves. Two awards honor those researchers for their contributions to the water industry. The Paul L. Busch Award annually recognizes up-and-coming scientists that are making significant contributions. Similarly, the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) awards the Clarke Prize to individuals that have implemented exceptional water science research and/or policy development to solve real world challenges. These awards provide deserved recognition to those that are making discoveries that result in transformational changes in how we use and manage water.

The Paul L. Busch Award recognizes individuals for innovative research in the field of water quality and the water environment. Paul L. Busch, PhD, believed in education and devoted his time mentoring and promoting the next generation of environmental engineers. Dr. Busch served as a chairman of Water Environment Research Foundation’s Board of Directions in 1994 and 1995. The award honors his visionary thinking and desire to pass on a clean-water environment to future generations. The award enables creative thinking to explore new ideas and take risks on innovative research. Since 2001, the award has provided more than $1.5 million in funding to researchers who are making breakthroughs in water quality and water treatment.

Shaily Mahendra, PhD
Previous award winners have been recognized for advances such as energy-producing wastewater and next-generation membrane treatment. The 2017 Paul L. Busch Award winner, Dr. Shaily Mahendra of UCLA, proposes to encapsulate enzymes in nanoparticle cages, or “vaults”, which can potentially remove a suite of water contaminants. Dr. Mahendra will pioneer the expansion of vault applications from the biomedical field to the environmental field. Her high-risk, high-reward work will be a novel and sustainable approach for translating enzymatic catalysis from the laboratory into practical engineering applications.

NWRI’s Clarke Prize was founded in honor of Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke, cofounder of NWRI. Mrs. Clarke recognized the importance of water and strongly promoted better water science and technology. To memorialize her vision, NWRI established the Clarke Prize to recognize scientists who best exemplify Mrs. Clarke’s dedication to finding solutions to the nation’s water resource problems. The award, approaching is 25th year, honors individuals that have significantly contributed to the discovery, development, improvement, and/or understanding of issues associated with water quality, quantity, technology, or public policy. Award winners include those in the fields of civil and environmental engineering, microbiology, aquatic chemistry, hydrology, environmental biotechnology, and many others.

Charles N. Haas, PhD
Award winners have a longstanding impact in the water industry. For example, Dr. Charles N. Haas of Drexel University, the 2017 Clarke Prize recipient, pioneered methods to assess and minimize health risks caused by exposure to disease-causing pathogens in water and wastewater. One of his first efforts was to understand what constituted microbiologically “safe” water by working with the U.S. EPA to understand minimum levels of treatment needed to reduce outbreaks of waterborne disease. More recently, Dr. Haas published a study in 2017 that suggests sewage workers downstream of hospitals and Ebola treatment centers could potentially contract the virus via inhalation.

Collectively, WE&RF and NWRI are fostering an environment that rewards innovation and dedication to improving water. The Paul L. Busch Award recognizes researches in the earlier stages of their career and encourages them to pursue a long career in water research to achieve the same accomplishments as Clarke Prize winners 30 to 40 years into their career.  Nominations are currently being accepted for both awards.