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PhD candidates win prestigious Fulbright Scholarships

Research will take fellow engineering students to India

7/31/2012
Fulbright scholar winners


By Amanda Heersink | University Communications

DENVER - Josh Sperling and Elliot Cohen, both PhD candidates in the Civil and Environmental Engineering program in the College of Engineering, have received prestigious Fulbright Scholarships. They will both be traveling to New Delhi, India, for individual research projects.

Cohen's (Photo: left) concept for his research is to study the correlation between water and energy use. Because compromised water is a large issue in India, as well as many other places, the impacts of unclean water can be far reaching. The water-energy nexus has become a hot-button issue in recent years.

Cohen plans to study the issue in New Delhi to quantify risk to critical water-energy infrastructure. "We want to look at what is called a water footprint, which is basically like a carbon footprint but with water," Cohen said.

Sperling's research project is titled "Health Outcomes as a Motivator for Low-Carbon Cities: Implications for Infrastructure." His work will be geared toward discovering links between health and urbanization.

"The rapid rate of urbanization has lead to many new health concerns that were nonexistent a short time ago," Sperling explained. The rate of urbanization is also going to continue to increase, leading to even higher death and incidence of diseases rates. "Over one-third of the cause of mortality is because of cardiovascular issues," Sperling said. He hopes to find ways to decrease the health concerns through improving infrastructure.

"We want to look at fixes for the short-term issues in the environment for health and then work on the longer term issues," Sperling added.

A Fulbright Scholarship is very difficult to earn, the process takes approximately a year to navigate the appropriate channels, and that does not include the time to cement what the actual research project should involve.

Cohen and Sperling are two of about 1,500 U.S. students who will travel abroad to more than 140 countries during the 2012-13 academic year through the Fulbright Scholar program. They credit CU Denver's Scholarship Office for a great amount of help through the application process.

Sperling and Cohen also are very excited to explore all the elements that New Delhi has to offer such as its exceptionally diverse culture and multitude of languages.

They plan to be in New Delhi for six to nine months depending on how their research comes along. They are set to leave at the end of this summer.

Beyond Sperling and Cohen's similar research interests and having both received Fulbright awards, they also each spent several years during their undergraduate careers as active leaders in their respective university chapters of Engineers without Borders, a nonprofit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide on sustainable infrastructure projects that can improve quality of life.

In 2009, the college's PhD program in environmental engineering and the university's NSF-funded interdisciplinary Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship​ (IGERT) program on sustainable urban infrastructure brought them together at the University of Colorado Denver, enabling them both to pursue advanced study in arenas for which they are passionate: finding ways to make communities, cities and the world better places for all inhabitants. ​

Sperling and Cohen can be reached at: ​joshuabsperling@gmail.com and elliot.umd@gmail.com.​

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Contact: Amanda.Heersink@ucdenver.edu​​​

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