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AWWA scholarship unlocks opportunities for water treatment innovator

Developing innovative water treatment solutions to protect the fragile environment is a life passion for Jay Werber, a past recipient of the American Water Works Association’s Abel Wolman Fellowship.

Developing innovative water treatment solutions to protect the fragile environment is a life passion for Jay Werber, a past recipient of the American Water Works Association’s Abel Wolman Fellowship.

Werber, 31, completed his doctorate degree at Yale University in June 2018, focusing on membrane materials for water treatment. He is now a post-doctoral associate in a polymer chemistry lab at the University of Minnesota.

“I’m driven by working on problems that are intellectually interesting and matter to society,” he said. “Just being the age that I am and looking at climate change and environmental issues, I find water to be one of the biggest problems our society faces and something I want to work on for the rest of my career.”

Born in Maryland, Werber grew up in Chicago and went to high school in Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering with a minor in biology at Washington University, then worked at a biotech company where he purified protein therapeutics using chromatography and membrane filtration.

To pursue his interest in bettering the environment through advanced membrane materials, Werber earned his master’s degree in chemical and environmental engineering at Yale before pursuing his doctorate degree.

“The fact is that it’s very difficult to get funding in academia -- being able to continue your work is not trivial,” Werber said. “I was so fortunate to receive the Wolman fellowship to cover funding for my final year at Yale and allow me to complete my Ph.D. Also, because it’s such a prestigious scholarship it will be very good for my career as I continue in water treatment.”

The Abel Wolman Fellowship supports promising doctoral students in the United States, Canada and Mexico. This $30,000 award provides up to two years of funding for advanced training and research in the field of water supply and treatment. The 2019 application process is open Sept. 29 through Jan. 11.

Using funding from the Abel Wolman Fellowship, Werber presented on desalination membranes at the American Chemical Society conference. He also presented at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers conference in Minneapolis, where he connected with Prof. Marc Hillmyer, director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers, who is now his post-doctoral research advisor.

Another of Werber’s passions is his family – his physical therapist wife, Tiana, and 15-month-old son, Theo.

“I think in terms of Theo’s life and what the world is going to be like in relation to climate change,” he said. “There are things we take for granted now that we won’t be able to in 50 years.”

AWWA currently offers $140,000 in scholarships annually. For information about becoming a scholarship sponsor, please contact Michelle Hektor, senior manager of development and donor relations, at mhektor@awwa.org.



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