Five MIT PhD Students Receive 2022 J-WAFS Fellowships for Water and Food Solutions | MIT News
The Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) recently announced the selection of its 2022-23 cohort of Graduate Fellows. Two students were named Rasikbhai L. Meswani Fellows for Water Solutions and three students were named J-WAFS Graduate Student Fellows. All five scholars will receive full tuition and a stipend for one semester, and J-WAFS will support students throughout the 2022-23 academic year by providing networking, mentorship, and opportunities to present their research.
New this year, scholarship applications were open not only to students pursuing water research, but also food-related research. The five selected students were chosen for their commitment to research focused on solutions aimed at alleviating problems such as water supply or purification, food security or agriculture. Their projects exemplify the wide range of research supported by J-WAFS, from improving nutrition through improved methods for delivering micronutrients to developing high-performance drip irrigation technology. The strong pool of applicants reflects the passion of MIT students to address the water and food crises currently facing the planet.
“This year’s Fellows come from a vibrant and engaged community across the Institute whose creativity and ingenuity are advancing transformational water and food solutions,” said J. -WAFS, Renee J. Robins. “We congratulate these students as we recognize their outstanding achievements and their promise as promising leaders in the global water and food sectors.”
2022-23 Rasikbhai L. Meswani Fellows for Water Solutions
The Rasikbhai L. Meswani Scholarship for Water Solutions is a scholarship for students pursuing water-related research at MIT. The Rasikbhai L. Meswani Scholarship for Water Solutions was made possible by a generous donation from Elina and Nikhil Meswani and their family.
Aditya Ghodgaonkar is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, where he works in the Global Engineering and Research (GEAR) laboratory under the supervision of Professor Amos Winter. Ghodgaonkar earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the RV College of Engineering in India. He then moved to the United States and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.
Ghodgaonkar is currently designing hydraulic components for drip irrigation that could support the development of water-efficient, off-grid, low-cost and low-maintenance irrigation systems. He focused on designing clog-resistant drip irrigation emitters, drawing inspiration from the flow regulation of marine wildlife like manta rays, as well as turbomachinery concepts. Ghodgaonkar notes that clogging is currently an expensive technical challenge to diagnose, mitigate and fix. With an eye on hundreds of millions of farms in developing countries, it aims to bring the benefits of irrigation technology to even the poorest farmers.
Outside of his research, Ghodgaonkar is a mentor at MIT Makerworks and has served as a teaching assistant for classes such as 2.007 (Design and Manufacturing I). He also helped organize the annual MIT Water Summit last fall.
Devashish Gokhale is a PhD candidate advised by Professor Patrick Doyle in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, where he researched fluid flow in energy-efficient pumps. Gokhale’s commitment to global water security stems from her experience growing up in India, where water sources are threatened by population growth, industrialization and climate change.
As a Doyle Group Researcher, Devashish develops sustainable and reusable materials for water treatment, with a focus on removing emerging contaminants and other micropollutants from water through cost-effective processes. Many of these contaminants are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors, posing a significant threat to humans and animals. His adviser notes that Devashish was the first Doyle Group researcher to work on water purification, bringing his passion for the subject to the lab.
Gokhale’s research won an award for its potential scalability in last year’s World Water Day J-WAFS competition. He is also Chairman of the Lecture Series at the MIT Water Club.
J-WAFS Graduate Students 2022-23
The J-WAFS Water and Food Solutions Fellowship is funded by the J-WAFS Research Affiliate Program, which offers companies the opportunity to collaborate with MIT on water and food research. A portion of each Research Affiliate’s fee supports this scholarship. The program is central to J-WAFS’ efforts to engage across industry and disciplinary boundaries in solving real-world problems. Currently, there are two J-WAFS research affiliates: Xylem, Inc., a water technology company, and GoAigua, a company leading the digital transformation of the water industry.
James Zhang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, where he has worked in the Nanoengineering Lab with Professor Gang Chen since 2019. As an undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, he was double major in mechanical engineering and public engineering policy. He later earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. In addition to working at the NanoEngineering Laboratory, James has also worked at the Zhao Laboratory and within the Boriskina Research Group at MIT.
Zhang is developing technology that uses light-induced evaporation to clean water. He is currently investigating the fundamental properties of how light interacts with brackish water surfaces. With strong theoretical and experimental components, his research could lead to innovations in energy-efficient brackish water desalination.
Outside of his research, Zhang served as a student moderator for the MIT International Colloquium on Thermal Innovations.
Katharina Fransen is a PhD candidate advised by Professor Bradley Olsen of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota, where she was involved with the Society of Women Engineers.
Fransen is driven by the challenge of protecting the world’s most vulnerable communities from the vast amounts of plastic waste associated with traditional food packaging materials. As a researcher at the Olsen Lab, Fransen develops new bio-based and biodegradable plastics, so they can degrade in the environment instead of polluting communities with plastic waste. These polymers are also optimized for food packaging applications to keep food fresh longer, preventing food waste.
Outside of her research, Fransen is involved in diversity in chemical engineering as the coordinator of the mentorship program for graduate applications for underrepresented groups. She is also an active member of Graduate Womxn in ChemE and mentors a student in the undergraduate research opportunities program.
Linzixuan (Rhoda) Zhang is a PhD candidate advised by Professor Robert Langer and Ana Jaklenec in the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied how to genetically engineer microorganisms for the efficient production of biofuels and advanced chemicals.
Zhang is currently developing a micronutrient delivery platform that enriches food with essential vitamins and nutrients. She helped develop a group of biodegradable polymers that can stabilize micronutrients under harsh conditions, enabling local food companies to fortify foods with essential vitamins. This work aims to address a hidden crisis in low- and middle-income countries, where a chronic lack of essential micronutrients affects an estimated 2 billion people.
Zhang also works on the development of self-stimulating vaccines to promote wider access to vaccines and serves as a research mentor at the Langer Lab.