Class year: 2020
Major: biomedical engineering
Challenge: provide access to clean water
In 2018, Sara attended the attended the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. She also began serving as student director of the Hult Prize @ UR competition, organizing the on-campus event and prep sessions to help teams get their presentations ready for judging.
The following year she was a member of the EZ Water Team that won first place and $5,000 at Charles and Janet Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition for their proposal to provide cheap, reliable, quality drinking water to millions of Pakistanis through a hyperlocal network of micropreneurs using Hollow Fiber Membrane technology to filter, bottle, and distribute water under one roof. The team also participated in the Ain Center’s inaugural Swarm Starter Competition and the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 in London.
Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges Program?
Privilege comes in many forms, one form is having access to clean water, food, and shelter. This is a privilege that many people in my hometown in Pakistan lack. That led me to do many projects associated with trying to bridge this gap. The Grand Challenge Scholars Program allowed me to continue working on the projects I am passionate about while giving me the support to put everything together and present it in a more formal manner.
Which of the five competencies did you most enjoy completing? Why?
The “competency” I enjoyed working on most was service. I believe that the best form of community service is providing education. In trips to Pakistan and Lebanon I made sure I took some time to teach people how to make their own water filters and teach them about the importance of using clean water in their daily activities. This knowledge will help them ensure they are maintaining a healthy lifestyle for generations, until the global water crisis is eradicated.
Are there things you learned while completing the competencies that you would not have learned in a classroom or lab? For example?
Through my experience in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program I have learned and gained many skills, especially while completing the entrepreneurship competency. I was able to compete in various competitions on campus and around the world through my project. These competitions allowed me to learn how to put together a team and work towards a certain goal. These are necessary skills that I would not have otherwise learned in a classroom or laboratory.
After you graduate, do you think you will want to continue to work or pursue graduate studies in the same field as the challenge you tackled? How will you do that?
The global water crisis is a problem that is very important to me and I have been working on trying to solve it in many different ways. After graduation, I do plan to continue working on my current projects and doing research on trying to eradicate the global water crisis.
How did being at the University of Rochester help you complete this program?
Being at the university of Rochester has helped me complete this program because it provided me with a platform to connect with other students and form a team as well as compete in various competitions.
What is the value of the Grand Challenges program for a student?
The greatest value comes when you realize that even the smallest efforts can help to solve a grand challenge that many suffer from around the world. Understanding all the multidisciplinary aspects of a global problem allows me to contribute in a way that makes the most impact.