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Money + Science = Better World

UCSB Grad Student Ning Jiang Raises Money for Water Filters in SciFund Challenge


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

“The creek right next to my house is black,” remembered UCSB grad student Ning Jiang of her childhood in Tsing Tao, China, years before working to develop a better water filter for developing countries around the world. “There are no fish or living organisms….That made me want to do something about it.”

Jiang — who’s working toward a Ph.D. in environmental science and management with a focus in microbiology — launched a crowd-funding campaign to fund the research, development, and testing of a new filter for Safe Water International. In just one day, more than 80 percent of the required funds were raised, and she met her goal of $2,000 within three days.

Along with the developer Henk Holtslag of Connect International in the Netherlands, Jiang is testing the “silver-sand” filter, which Safe Water hopes to distribute to Third World countries to improve water quality across the globe. An upgraded biosand filter, the silver-sand filter is a large cylinder filled with about 20 gallons of sand and gravel. Dirty water is poured on top of the cylinder, where the top layer of sand generates a layer of “good” bacteria” to kill “bad” bacteria, and that’s followed by a section of silver — which has been used as a disinfectant since Roman times — to get rid of whatever bacteria remains.

“It is really exciting that I can apply what I study at school to really make a big difference,” said Jiang. “A lot of science is for curiosities sake, but it’s great that I can use my knowledge for a better purpose.”

Jiang’s project is part of a larger collaboration called the SciFund Challenge, an ongoing experiment that launched on May 1 to see if scientists can use crowdfunding to fund their research while allowing them to engage with the public. With 75 scientists participating from around the world, the SciFund Challenge generated $45,000 to pay for research in the first week alone. To date, nearly $75,000 has been raised total.

To learn more about the SciFund Challenge, see scifundchallenge.org.