Doctoral Student Honored for Commitment to Protecting Water


The underlying ethos of hydro-diplomacy — sharing water-related resources in times of scarcity in an effort to bring countries closer together — has the potential to prevent conflict and save lives. Doctoral student Samuel White was honored for his role in promoting hydro-diplomacy through his work with Civil and Urban Engineering Professor Ilan Juran and their collaboration with UNESCO on an ecosystem preservation project.

This summer, the New York Water Environment Association (NYWEA) gave White the organization’s N.G. Kaul Memorial Scholarship, which was established to recognize outstanding students focusing on water quality issues who show a commitment to public service.

White and Juran were instrumental in preparing UNESCO’s Water, Megacities, & Global Change, an important volume that aims to shine a light on the key role that cities play in the achievement of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially those pertaining to universal access to water and sanitation.

White’s studies have focused on optimizing integrated water resources in urban food-energy-water systems and finding new technology applications for use in water treatment; like Juran, he is devoted to ensuring a sustainable urban water supply and sanitation systems, preventing the pollution of the coastal ecosystem, promoting water reuse for agricultural applications and food security, and alleviating the growing public health risks and severe environmental hazards that arise when water resources are not protected or used wisely.

The NYWEA scholarship is just one of the laurels White — who founded the NYU Engineers without Borders Interest Group and has served as president of the NYU Tandon UN-Habitat University Network Initiative — has garnered. He was also recently selected to conduct research as a 2017 Visiting Professional at the Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

Given his focus on infrastructure systems and his technical accomplishments, it seems as though White is one of those people who has known since childhood that he was destined to earn degrees in engineering. But while his master’s degree (earned at NYU in 2016) is, indeed, in urban infrastructure systems, his undergraduate path might come as something of a surprise: he holds a dual BA in international studies and religious studies, earned while concurrently working on organic farms in Germany, teaching English as a second language in Thailand, and studying at a Thai Buddhist monastery.

It’s a varied, multidisciplinary background that has equipped him perfectly to make a difference in the world of protecting water, and perhaps lives.