COOKEVILLE – Haley White wants to make an impact in the world through water research.

A Tennessee Tech doctoral student in engineering, White is on her way to making an impact after being awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the American Water Works Association Henry “Bud” Benjes Scholarship.

“I’m very excited and overwhelmingly thankful to receive both the AWWA scholarship and NSF fellowship,” said White. “I have been abundantly blessed with both of these awards.”

White received her NSF fellowship award following a national competition in which she submitted several documents including a highly detailed research proposal and personal statement indicating her potential to positively impact society through a STEM career. The program received 12,000 applications for the 2,000 fellowships.

The AWWA scholarship, which is sponsored by a civil engineering firm HDR, is awarded once a year to a “water professionals” student with research focused on increasing water supply, who demonstrates leadership skills that will advance water treatment technologies throughout his or her career.

“The NSF fellowship covers the next three years of my tuition and my stipend,” said White. “It also gives me credibility now and later on, showing I can be an independent researcher and that I can effectively complete projects and communicate results. The AWWA scholarship is funding some of my travel and laboratory equipment to complete my experiments.”

A native of Lafayette, Tenn., White became interested in science and math at Macon County High School. The daughter of two engineers, White enrolled at Tech in chemical engineering. While at Tech, she worked on co-op for a year and a half at DuPont.

After graduating from Tech in May 2015, she worked at Chemours as a first line supervisor. While there, she became increasingly more interested in operations and environmental stewardship, and accepted an operations engineering position with Solvay.

“While I was working, I became interested in water research for increasing sustainability at the water-energy nexus because I knew it would help people globally,” said White.

While at Solvay, White worked on several projects centered on environmental protection. After working on these projects, White realized she was interested in developing sustainable water reclamation technologies. So, she returned to Tennessee Tech and began her graduate studies working with Laura H. Arias Chavez, an assistant professor in chemical engineering.

“Selection for the NSF program is extremely competitive and is considered to be a great honor for any graduate student,” said Chavez. “Haley’s selection as a Tennessee Tech graduate student, and an alumna of our undergraduate chemical engineering program, is a testament to her incredible talent and research potential. It also speaks highly of her alma mater.”

Now that White has the financial support from both the NSF fellowship and AWWA scholarship, she can continue her research and look forward to the future.

“When I came back to school, I knew I wanted to be impactful. I began working on my Ph.D. so that I could return to industry and be a researcher for water reclamation or water treatment technologies on a larger scale,” said White. “I’d like to work for an industrial company or consulting firm who is on the front end of that.”

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