The Paul L. Busch Award recognizes an individual for innovative research in the field of water quality and the water environment, with a special focus on those who show promise and make significant contributions in bridging research and its practical application. The Award carries with it a $100,000 grant, allowing recipients to continue their work, take risks, and explore new directions.
The Award is made possible by the Endowment for Innovation in Applied Water Quality Research and has provided $2.1 million in funding to up-and-coming researchers who are making major breakthroughs in the water quality industry.
Nominations are no longer being accepted.
About Paul L. Busch
Learn more about Paul L. Busch and why this award was named in his honor.
2022 Award Winner
Dr. Belinda Sturm
The Water Research Foundation presented Dr. Belinda Sturm with the 2022 Paul L. Busch Award. With this funding, Dr. Sturm will further our understanding of how the physical, chemical, and biological properties of aerobic granular sludge impact the removal of pathogens and microplastics from wastewater.
Previous Award Winners
2021 - Z. Jason Ren
Z. Jason Ren
The Water Research Foundation announced Dr. Z. Jason Ren as the recipient of the 2021 Paul L. Busch Award. With this funding, Dr. Ren will advance our understanding of greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater.
2020 - Shihong Lin
The Water Research Foundation (WRF) announced Dr. Shihong Lin as the recipient of the 2020 Paul L. Busch Award. With this funding, Dr. Lin will advance water separation technologies to address the growing challenges at the water-energy-food nexus.
2019 - Ameet Pinto
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.
2018 - Krista Rule Wigginton
WRF announced Krista Rule Wigginton, PhD, as the 2018 Paul L. Busch Award winner. With the $100,000 prize, Dr. Wigginton will develop new methods to protect public health and facilitate the development of virus-based methods for treating water.
> Learn more about how Dr. Wigginton plans to use the prize money.
2017 - Shaily Mahendra
SHAILY MAHENDRA proposed to encapsulate enzymes in nanoparticle cages called vaults. Ultimately, if one or more enzymes involved in biodegradation of multiple co-contaminants are packaged inside vaults, such vaults can potentially be a “one stop shop” for removing a suite of water contaminants.
2016 - Jeremy Guest
JEREMY GUEST worked on creation of nutrient management systems that are efficient enough and small enough to fit inside existing plants. He planed to achieve this by tapping into microscopic carbon-capturing algae, a solution that could return added benefits in the form of energy production. He was researching ways to intensify the algal treatment process by introducing selective pressures that will ultimately result in higher performing algae and a more robust and predictable process.
2015 - Mari Winkler
MARI WINKLER has used the award to conduct research on combining autotrophic anaerobic and aerobic ammonium oxidation in granular sludge to produce more sustainable mainstream wastewater treatment. Not only has this helped move her research on nutrient removal forward, but it is also a step towards her long-term goal of significantly minimizing energy requirements and sludge production of wastewater treatment.
2014 - Amy Pruden
AMY PRUDEN, PHD is working directly with water utilities and water professionals to identify best practices for treatment and distribution of water for reuse that best fits the intended purpose, while also addressing public health concerns. She is using next-generation DNA sequencing-based tools to ensure that multiple barriers are effective for removal of pathogens and antibiotic resistant genes.
2013 - Chul Park
CHUL PARK is explored the use of algae-based processes as an alternative to traditional wastewater treatment. Park and his team created a naturally formed granule made up of both algae and bacteria in one biomass, which showed success in processes that efficiently remove organic matter and solids without aeration. Park and his team used the award to better understand the mechanisms behind the formation of this unique biogranule and to study anaerobic digestion of the harvested photogranules and how it could play into enhanced nitrogen removal.
2012 - Robert Nerenberg
ROBERT NERENBERG is exploring new, less costly, approach to biological nutrient removal, by employing membrane biofilm reactors (MBfRs). Because MBfRs can transfer dissolved gas directly to a biofilm, they open the door to a new class of electron donors – gases that were rarely used in wastewater treatment because of their low solubility.
2011 - Volodymyr Tarabara
VOLODYMYR TARABARA is validating innovative concepts that could lead to widespread use of membranes designed to perform multiple functions at once. Through this research, Tarabara and his team produced the first demonstration of high throughput dechlorination in a membrane reactor. The team manufactured metallic (palladium) and bimetallic (palladium-gold) catalysts that were supported on exfoliatedgraphite carrier mats and reduced trichloroethylene (TCE) by more than 95%.
2010 - Kartik Chandran
KARTIK CHANDRAN is pursuing new approaches to biologically convert methane into methanol, allowing treatment facilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time providing them with a renewable energy source to power their plants, as well as a carbon source to boost their denitrification processes. Ongoing research suggests that methanol production can be integrated into the sidestream nitrogen removal processes, which could have major implications for wastewater treatment facilities
2009 - Jaehong Kim
JAEHONG KIM and his research team investigated innovative technology for harnessing UV radiation, using the award to initiate research on materials originally developed for laser optics, called upconversion phosphors. They developed several generations of upconversion material that can produce germicidal UV light from ambient visible light and inactivate microorganisms in water. The team continues to adjust the material for higher upconversion abilities, which could have benefits for other areas, such as hospital surfaces and other public facilities.
2008 - Andrew Schuler
ANDREW SCHULER'S research into how surface chemistry and geometry affect biofilm performance has provided the basis for an externally-funded course of research that continues in his lab today. One of his most important findings so far was that increasing attachment surface energy and hydrophilicity produced biofilms with more effective nitrification and estrogen removal rates – identifying new strategies to improve the performance of full-scale biofilm-based wastewater treatment systems.
2007 - Paige Novak
PAIGE NOVAK used the Paul L. Busch Award to study how industries are affecting estrogenicity in wastewater effluent. Novak discovered new and unexpected sources of estrogenic environmental contaminants and characterized their fate under different conditions. Her findings highlight the fact that phytoestrogens can be present in effluents from industries not traditionally thought of as potential sources – underscoring the importance of understanding these waste streams.
2006 - Paul Westerhoff
PAUL WESTERHOFF and his research team examined the removal of engineered nanomaterials during wastewater treatment, which led to the development of new analytical methods and the consideration of nanomaterial toxicity and removal mechanisms with biomass. After assessing the risks, his team and others now believe that nanotechnology is less of a risk and more of an opportunity. He currently directs several large-scale efforts to examine the life-cycle risks and beneficial uses of nanotechnology.
2005 - Daniel Noguera
DANIEL NOGUERA'S research into the organisms behind the enhanced biological nutrient removal process led him to broader research into photoheterotrophic bacteria. Through the award, he began investigating the metabolism of photoheterotrophic bacteria, and now there are technologies that employ photoheterotrophic bacteria for several aspects of biofuel production from cellulosic biomass.
2004 - Bruce Logan
BRUCE LOGAN used the award to show, for the first time, that wastewater treatment plants can produce useful things rather than just act as economic burdens to a community. His groundbreaking research demonstrated that electricity could be generated from wastewater, using only microorganisms. This stimulated interest in transforming wastewater treatment plants into what we know in the future will be resource recovery facilities. Logan continues to make strides in this area, engineering microbial fuel cells that soon could be commercialized.
2003 - David Sedlak
DAVID SEDLAK'S research looked at the fate of compounds that can pass through reverse osmosis membranes. Sedlak and his team identified certain compounds that have strong tastes and odors, which can compromise the aesthetics of water, and certain low molecular-weight toxic compounds that are present in municipal wastewater effluent. They assessed a variety of advanced treatment technologies for potable reuse and found that a combination of multiple barriers can successfully remove these compounds.
2002 - Lutgarde Raskin
LUTGARDE RASKIN and her team focused their research on biological foaming in activated sludge, a problem that can equate to large costs for plants. With resources from the award, they developed molecular tools to detect and monitor the bacterial populations responsible for foaming, which allowed them to identify a link between high levels of Gordonia biomass and seasonal foaming, and establish a strong correlation between temperature and mixed liquor suspended solids levels.
2001 - Nancy Love
NANCY LOVE'S research into chemical stresses in the water treatment process has advanced the technology used to sense and remove these chemicals. She used the award in her efforts to create a protein-based warning system to quickly detect changes in influent and prevent plant breakdowns. Her group went on to do work in many areas using molecular biology tools, helping to understand how organisms in activated sludge flocs change in response to chemicals and how to understand biomarkers of a cell’s response.