The WaterHub at Emory University is more than a wastewater reclamation facility. While the facility primarily serves to reclaim water for beneficial reuse, the WaterHub also provides an adjunct platform to enhance curriculum and research opportunities. Yvonne Kienast, a graduate student at Emory University pursuing a Master’s in Public Health, highlights the WaterHub as the feature of her thesis. Kienast is currently conducting water quality research at the facility. In an interview with WaterProof’s Editor, Natalie Zvanya, Kienast discussed how the WaterHub has impacted her academic career.
Since Kienast was a child, she always dreamed that one day she would work in the field of medicine or public health. Following her dream, she visited Emory University for the first time in the spring of 2014 to review its graduate program, just one year before the commissioning of the WaterHub. Immediately, Kienast found an atmosphere that would make her dream a reality.
As one of the top research institutions in the United States, Emory University’s academic environment and devotion to sustainability allowed Kienast to work directly with influential public health professionals. Kienast spoke of a few influential professors at the University that became mentors throughout her academic career, including Dr. Christine Moe, Dr. Karen Levy and Dr. Amy Kirby. Dr. Moe is a Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation in the Rollins School of Public Health and the Director of the Center for Global Safe Water. Dr. Karen Levy is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Program in Population Biology, Ecology & Evolution and Department of Environmental Sciences. Dr. Amy Kirby is an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health.
Kienast was invited to explore the WaterHub in the fall of 2014, during her first semester at the University. The class, Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries, taught by Dr. Moe, allowed Kienast to study sampling methods in the world of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). She was also able to utilize the facility in Dr. Levy’s class Research Methods in WASH, where students tested water samples from various stations throughout the system. She explained, “The location [of the WaterHub] provides the opportunity for professors to integrate the WaterHub into their curriculum” while providing a real world working experience for students.
The convenient location of the WaterHub has allowed Kienast to continue her thesis research on-site. “Since the WaterHub is situated directly on campus, students do not need to travel to take water samples. They are able to collect samples directly on their campus, and learn and experience how field work is conducted.” Kienast explained research at the WaterHub “can also include behavioral related studies about the perception of water scarcity, usage of reclaimed water in the US, or just general education about how wastewater treatment works.”
When asked to described the WaterHub in five words or less, Kienast chose: Living Research Hub and Recycling Gold. “My great-grandmother always used to say: ‘One day we will fight over water and water will be the new gold.’”
Currently, Kienast is completing her thesis research at the WaterHub and is a Research Assistant for Dr. Kirby in the Center for Global Safe WASH. She is interested in a PhD program in Public Health, but plans to gain more professional experience in the WASH field prior to doctoral studies.