The Water Research Foundation Announces 2019 Paul L. Busch Award Winner
On September 24, during WEFTEC in Chicago, IL, The Water Research Foundation (WRF) announced Dr. Ameet Pinto as the 2019 Paul L. Busch Award winner. With the $100,000 prize, Dr. Pinto will develop a modular platform for low-cost and real-time characterization of microbial communities across the engineered water cycle.
Ameet Pinto is an Environmental Engineer and Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University in Boston. Ameet’s work has been supported by diverse funding agencies including Royal Society (UK), The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK), the National Science Foundation, and The Water Research Foundation. His research contributions were jointly recognized in 2018 by the International Water Association and International Society of Microbial Ecology’s through the BioCluster Award in the Rising Star Category. He is also the 2019 recipient of the Virginia Tech’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Outstanding Young Alumni Award.
The Paul L. Busch selection committee was extremely impressed with Dr. Pinto's proposal, as there is clear need for fast and low-cost microbial monitoring technologies, and his research could lead to a broad array of potential applications. Dr. Pinto’s research addresses an immediate, global concern while using the innovative data analysis and microscopic examination tools.
On winning the award, Dr. Pinto says, “I am grateful to win the 2019 Paul L. Busch Award, and this recognition of my team’s work is great. Our vision is to get state-of-the-art technology into the hands of every operator at every water utility, irrespective of the size of their customer base and revenue stream. This will change how we manage biology in the water industry, and more importantly, has the potential to bring many more water professionals into the business of innovation in the water sector.”
Managing microbial communities is essential for maintaining the safety of drinking water supply, the reliability of biological drinking and wastewater treatment, and the sustainability of resource recovery efforts. Current approaches for monitoring microbial communities are time-consuming, require advanced expertise, and expensive instrumentation. While cost and expertise requirements can limit user access to microbial characterization methods, the time-gap between sample collection and data acquisition eliminates the possibility of timely interventions informed by microbial data. Overcoming these limitations has the potential to revolutionize microbial community monitoring, management, and biotechnology development in the water industry. Dr. Pinto will use the Paul L. Busch Award to advance the development of miniaturized microscopy and portable, real-time DNA sequencing technologies and the integration data from these two technologies using deep learning approaches.
Since 2001, the Endowment for Innovation in Applied Water Quality Research has supported the Paul L. Busch Award, providing more than $1.6 million in funding to up-and-coming researchers who are making major breakthroughs in the water quality industry. From energy-producing wastewater to next-generation membrane treatment, the Endowment has been there to fund this important research, pushing ideas on the brink of discovery forward.