US Engineering Students Begin UK Collaborations for Clean Water

Photo of stream running through a mountain forest.

Bark beetle-infested trees fall into a river, likely affecting the health of its waters.

October 24, 2013

The National Science Foundation recently awarded 20 supplements totaling $1 million to U.S. researchers and students for international collaborations in pursuit of clean water for all.

"These supplements enable NSF investigators and their students to directly engage with researchers in the United Kingdom to exchange research strategies, tools, and knowledge in the vitally important area of clean water," said lead NSF program director Bruce Hamilton. 

The provision of clean water is a global issue with social, health, and economic implications. It has been identified by the international research community, including the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, as a grand challenge for engineering in the area of sustainability.  

Beginning this fall, students from Oregon to Arizona to Maine will make their way to the U.K. to spend time using special equipment, examining field sites, and learning new methods first hand.  They will investigate fundamental questions connected to water treatment and purification, water reuse, storm water management, the water-energy nexus, urban water sustainability, and the resilience of water infrastructures.

Hamilton said, "In some cases, U.S. researchers will also receive visits from U.K. researchers and their students." The U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will support additional exchanges involving U.K. research teams.

Kedar Pandya, head of engineering at EPSRC said, "EPSRC is delighted to be working with the NSF to support U.K. and U.S. researchers to address key challenges in clean water for all."

"The NSF and the EPSRC coordinated their investments to spur the creation of breakthrough solutions to clean water challenges," said Pramod Khargonekar, assistant director for the NSF Directorate for Engineering.  "These collaborations not only promote the very best engineering research, they also help prepare the future U.S. engineering workforce to think and engage globally."

This joint, parallel activity was announced in the context of the 2013 Global Grand Challenges Summit between the national academies of engineering in the U.K., U.S., and China, which brought together leading engineers, future engineers, innovators, and policy makers to share their ideas on solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

The NSF Engineering grantees receiving supplements are:

  • David Allen of the University of Texas at Austin: To evaluate a model of electricity, fuel supply, and water systems in an area where shale gas reserves are being considered for production of natural gas.
  • Defne Apul of the University of Toledo: To improve understanding of water infrastructure systems by building stormwater management and rainwater harvesting into life cycle analysis tools.
  • Nicole Berge of the University South Carolina: To investigate the use of hydrochar made from waste materials and biomass to remove water pollutants, including trace pollutants, from stormwater, streams, and other water sources.   
  • Casey Brown of University of Massachusetts Amherst: To join work on risk management and ecohydrological sustainability with the larger concept of water security and extending its applicabiliy into the developing world.
  • Steven Burian of the University of Utah: To achieve long-term sustainability goals by advancing the capacity to study, plan, design, and manage urban drainage systems.
  • Kai Loon Chen of Johns Hopkins University: To design and create an ultrafiltration membrane for drinking water and wastewater treatment applications that is resistant to biological fouling.
  • Ramesh Goel of the University of Utah: To examine the environmental fate, migration, and interactions of organisms carrying genes for antibiotic resistance, and their impacts on water sustainability.
  • Shaleen Jain of the University of Maine: To improve decision-making about water issues by generating a systematic synthesis and typology of climate-water-ecosystems-policy complexes around the world.
  • Kerry Kinney of the University of Texas at Austin: To determine relationships between shower design parameters and the potential for dispersion of harmful microorganisms in water aerosols.
  • Kevin Lansey of the University of Arizona: To bring localized water reuse options at the household and neighborhood level into water treatment models currently optimized for the water sustainability and resilience of tens of thousands of households.
  • Richard Luthy of Stanford University: To increase understanding of the fate and biodegradation of stormwater micropollutants in surface and groundwater, soil, and vegetation.
  • Sara McMillan of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte: To understand and predict instream responses of nutrient retention, ecosystem metabolism, biological integrity and temperature response, particularly the complex interactions between heat sources and sinks in the watershed.
  • Thanh Nguyen of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: To study the removal and inactivation of water-borne pathogens under conditions found in Nepal.
  • Amilcare Porporato of Duke University: To analyze optimal irrigation strategies under probabilistic rainfall scenarios by assessing natural and agricultural uses of water resources in seasonally dry ecosystems.
  • Fernando Rosario-Ortiz of the University of Colorado at Boulder: To investigate barriers and incentives affecting implementation of urban-scale water reuse through a competition among student-led research projects.
  • James Smith of Princeton University: To make atmospheric models of urban areas more accurate by improving the representation of air-surface exchanges and of trees and other vegetation.
  • Desiree Tullos of Oregon State University: To better understand and predict the effects of log jams by linking field monitoring of wood mobility with quantitative analysis of hydraulic forces.
  • Peter Vikesland of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: To extend a technique designed to detect bacteria to the simultaneous (or parallel) detection of waterborne antibiotic resistance genes.
  • Christopher Vulpe of the University of California-Berkeley: To field-test a method for identifying chemical toxins by measuring the genetic response of an ecoindicator organism.
  • Daniel Yeh of the University of South Florida: To better understand the physiology, productivity, and ecology of the microalga Botryococcus braunii when grown with wastewater as a feedstock.


Media Contact
Sarah Bates, NSF (703) 292-7738
Bobbie Mixon, NSF (703) 292-8485
EPSRC Press Office 011 (44) 1793 444 404

Program Contacts
Bruce Hamilton, NSF Directorate for Engineering (703) 292-7066
Graham Harrison, NSF Office of International & Integrative Activities (703) 292-7252

Related Websites
Global Water Challenge (multimedia):
Cactus Flesh Cleans Up Toxic Water (multimedia):
Engineering Safer Drinking Water in Africa (multimedia):
Engineering a Difference (multimedia): 

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Connect with us online
NSF website:
NSF News:
For News Media:
Awards database:

Follow us on social
Twitter: and