Class year: 2019
Major: Chemical engineering
Challenge: Provide Access to Clean Water
(Click here to see the poster he prepared about his GCS experience.)
How did you hear about the Grand Challenges Program?
I heard about the program at a lunch event hosted by Dean Heinzelman where Emma Derisi was present to encourage students to apply.
Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges program?
I come from a non-profit background, and sought an education in engineering to develop a skillset that can be applied to solve some of the most pressing problems that I came across while teaching in rural areas of Pakistan: food, water, shelter, electricity, and sanitation. I have dedicated my last four years here towards understanding, testing, and developing solutions to each of those problems, and the GCSP program seemed to capture my spirit of service through innovation in one framework. That’s why I applied to the program.
Which of the five “competencies” (research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship/innovation, global, service) did you most enjoy completing? Why?
Entrepreneurship was the most interesting piece. I got to compete in several business competitions to win grants for my endeavors, met great mentors, and found new avenues of collaborations around the world. I truly got an educationout of interacting with brilliant people in competitive and social gatherings for entrepreneurs.
Do you think you will want to continue work in the field of your “challenge” after graduation? How?
Of course! I’m currently serving as the Business Development Executive of a $150M valued clean water technology startup in Pakistan that develops $20 filters that can remove all bacteria, viruses and contaminants (except heavy metals) from the water and last a family of 5 for 3 years. Right after graduation, I’m hopping on a plane to Uganda to lead our first project outside of Pakistan and serve an entirely new market in East Africa.
How did being at the University of Rochester help you to complete this program?
Firstly, the fact that the U of R provided me with a full-tuition Renaissance Scholarship is literally the reason I could be here and receive an education. That enabled me to be a part of this program. Secondly, I was inspired by my seniors who undertook massive engineering challenges to solve problems for the refugees (Meliora Homes in Hult Prize 2017). Without that high bar and drive, I wouldn’t have had the motivation to explore these avenues and work for a startup in Pakistan while being based in Rochester. Lastly, the exposure through the conferences, business programs, and competitions that U of R afforded me allowed me to gain a global outlook, interdisciplinary approach, and service mindset. Having an open curriculum became the foundation upon which I completed 4 courses in Economics/Political science, which shaped my understanding of the economics of water around the world.
For you, what is the value of the Grand Challenges program?
It is a community of students dedicated towards solving key challenges around the world. I believe that is the greatest support, inspiration, and exposure a college student can have going forward in life!