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EnviroE grad earns U.S.-India grant through water startup

Four years ago, Mike German '13 G rode his bicycle from coast to coast, from California to Virginia, to raise money to help provide clean drinking water in the African nation of Zambia.

German had just completed his B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He was preparing to enroll in graduate school and devote his career to alternative energy and climate change.

During his 55-day, 4,000-mile bike trek, however, he had a change of heart.

“I realized that water is much more personal,” he says.

After completing his trip, German enrolled at Lehigh and began studying with Arup K. SenGupta, the P.C. Rossin Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who has spent three decades cleaning contaminated drinking water around the world.

A year and a half ago, German and SenGupta co-founded WIST (Water Innovation through Science and Technology) with Minhaj Chowdhury, CEO of Drinkwell, in an effort to solve water crises in Asia and Africa.

WIST and its partner, RiteWater, a small technology-based company in India, recently received $400,000 from the United States-India Science and Technology Endowment Fund for a proposal titled “Transforming Arsenic and Fluoride Crisis in Drinking Water into an Economic Enterprise.” USISTEF was created by the U.S. and Indian governments to promote innovation and “technopreneurship.”

German, who completed a M.S. in environmental engineering from Lehigh in the fall of 2013, spent a year in India as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar before beginning his Ph.D. studies. SenGupta and Chowdhury are also former Fulbright Scholars on the Indian subcontinent.

The USISTEF grant will enable German and SenGupta to take water-remediation technologies they’ve developed at Lehigh, implement them in communities that lack access to safe drinking water, and make them economically sustainable while generating profits and creating jobs. The technologies use sorbents to remove arsenic and fluoride from well water.

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

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