Four scholars from Pakistan have arrived at the University of Utah as part of an international exchange program. They will spend a semester on campus participating in water research and developing teaching experience to take back to Pakistan, a country that faces severe water challenges.
The four are faculty members at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, or MUET, in Jamshoro, Pakistan. MUET and the University of Utah are partners in a USAID-funded initiative to build Pakistan’s water research capability using American resources and expertise.
University of Utah professors Steven Burian and Tariq Banuri lead the U’s involvement in the partnership, called the US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Water. In December 2015, Burian, Banuri and other participating faculty members from the U traveled to Pakistan to help MUET develop its water research center, a facility dedicated to training the next generation of water scientists and engineers in that country. The scholars visiting the U are the first in a series of visits by faculty and students in coming semesters.
While at the U, the visiting scholars are joining research laboratories, auditing university courses such as statistics and teaching engineering, and participating in a weekly seminar series. Two of the scholars, civil engineer Uzma Imran and materials engineer Sara Hassan are joining geology and geophysics professor Bill Johnson to investigate mercury contamination in the Great Salt Lake. Environmental scientist Rakhshinda Bano is working with Burian to model water resources in the upper Indus River basin, and environmental engineer Rasool Bux Mahar is studying disinfection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria with civil and environmental engineering professor Ramesh Goel.
The partnership also aims to improve gender equity in science and engineering at MUET. Imran says that she was one of two women in a class of more than 300 during her undergraduate studies. “Female strength is very low in civil engineering, which is related to industry,” Hassan says. MUET’s goal is a 50:50 male-to-female ratio for both students and faculty.
All are hoping that their experience in Utah provides them with the tools to address some of Pakistan’s greatest challenges, such as heavy metals contamination, little or no treatment of wastewater and groundwater depletion in agricultural areas.
There’s another experience they’re looking forward to in Utah as well: All four hope to try skiing.
Paul Gabrielsen is a science writer at University Marketing and Communications. If you have an interesting story idea, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.