The Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity

Global Water Labs

PI: Jessica Ray

Start-Up Company Name: Global Water Labs

Lab/Project Website:

Work Location: Lab inside More Hall (UW Campus)

Work Hours: TBD (after discussing with student), but typically ~ 4-6 hr/day between 10am-5pm on weekdays

Overall Program Goal: Our nonprofit organization, Global Water Labs, offers technical expertise to local water providers (e.g., NGOs and governments) in impoverished, resource-constrained regions to pilot and scale up low-cost drinking water treatment technologies. Our initial goal is to effectively address groundwater fluoride contamination, which puts over 200 million people worldwide at risk of skeletal fluorosis (irreversible crippling) and dental fluorosis (mottled enamel). Thus far, we have successfully piloted our bauxite-based groundwater defluoridation method (called the Scalable and Affordable Fluoride Removal process, or SAFR) with field partners in Kibera, Kenya and Arusha, Tanzania. Our technical goals for ongoing R&D include: 1) Designing and testing an optimal filter reactor configuration using granular bauxite media (as opposed to its current form as a dispersive powdered media), 2) Testing the use of bauxite (an aluminum rich ore) to remove additional inorganic contaminants (e.g., arsenic, chromium, lead, etc.), and 3) Developing resource recovery methods (e.g., extraction of aluminum or construction materials) from the spent bauxite waste. On the business front, our goals are to grow our team by making our first hire (a business lead) and expand our international network of partners and potential customers (in India, Mexico, etc.)

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities: The intern will likely work on Technical Goals 1 & 2 described above, depending on how much work is completed in the upcoming 4 months (till June). Typical job duties will include preparing bauxite samples through milling, sieving, and heating, making standard solutions through serial dilutions of stock solutions, creating calibration curves to test performance of measurement devices like the pH/fluoride probes, conducting batch experiments, preparing solutions through acidification for further analysis of dissolved metals content, and measuring different water quality variables over time (e.g., fluoride/aluminum concentrations, total dissolved solids, pH). Additionally, the student might get an introduction to making figures and analyzing data obtained from some analytical tools (e.g., zetasizer, gas sorption analyzer, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS), etc.).

Pre-requisites:It is preferred that the student have a background in STEM, with a focus in majors including Civil/Environmental Engineering, Material Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Sciences, or Mechanical Engineering. It would be great it the student has completed coursework related to inorganic chemistry, experimental lab work, analytical chemistry, water chemistry, and/or introduction to environmental engineering. Furthermore, it is preferred if the student has had previous lab experience and skills such as pipetting accurately, making chemical solutions via dilution, and weighing media. It would be appreciated if the student has had any experience working on technology/product design with relation to filters or with doing fieldwork in resource-constrained settings. Additional characteristics such as being timely, friendly, outgoing, and communicating effectively are also sought after. However, all of these requirements are not strict and any student who is passionate about the aforementioned mission of Global Water Labs and interested in the cause of the organization/project should be encouraged apply.

Level of Independence: The intern will likely work in lab primarily alongside Katya Cherukumilli, the postdoctoral researcher and CEO/Founder of Global Water Labs. The position is open-ended and will be fine-tuned based on the student. For instance, if the student is interested in contributing to a pre-planning manuscript (through both lab work, research, and writing), I can make the position and timeline more clearly structured. If the student is looking to gain basic lab skills and advance their knowledge of the topic, the tasks can be more flexible and varied.

Learning Opportunities: Over the course of the summer experience, the undergraduate can expect to gain a deeper understanding of human-centered technology design and groundwater chemistry (as related to inorganic pollutants, alkalinity for buffering, etc.), in addition to technical skills related to the operation of some analytical equipment.  These skills will be very valuable for conducting future research in the fields of environmental engineering or chemistry. I will also mentor the undergraduate on how to build a strong resume, give effective and insightful scientific research updates and presentations to the lab group, and how to write grant applications for future research funding.