Katherine Li

Duke University Class of 2022

  • Hometown: Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
  • Major: Civil Engineering (Environmental Engineering and Water Resources)
  • Certificate: Energy and the Environment
  • Grand Challenge Focus: Providing Access to Clean Water
  • Grand Challenge Advisor: Dr. Heileen Hsu-Kim
  • Grand Challenge Thesis: Characterizing Surface Thiol Sites of Environmentally Relevant Microbes to Inform Trace Metal Fate in the Environment

What are the Engineering Grand Challenges?

In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering published a report outlining 14 grand challenges in engineering that will promote “continuation of life on the planet”. These goals seek to improve sustainability, health, security, and quality of life on a global scale. Engineering schools around the world have adopted the NAE Grand Challenges as a way for students to address these pressing problems and be better prepared to solve these and similar problems in the future.

The Katsouleas NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program at Duke University is designed to provide students with technical and research skills, interdisciplinary knowledge, global understanding, service experience, and entrepreneurial skills in order to promote a well rounded and multi-faceted understanding of an Engineering Grand Challenge.

Why the Grand Challenge Scholar Program?

Working towards the engineering grand challenges comes at a critical time for our planet and its people. Climate change, the water scarcity crisis, and the urgent need for large scale renewable energy infrastructure, among other challenges, are disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable populations. Working towards solving these challenges will not only produce cheaper, more efficient, innovative technologies that empower communities around the world, it will inspire activism and policy change that creates a just future for all. 

I want to approach my engineering career with a focus on service to society in a global context. I want to understand the important interaction between science, technology, and policy. I believe the Grand Challenge Scholar program will help me to accomplish this.

I am passionate about the challenge of providing access to clean water. Water is life, and having access to a clean source is a human right. I’m interested in exploring the water scarcity crisis and water quality issues in both the U.S. and abroad. As climate change continues to further stress already scarce water sources, addressing this problem is more critical than ever.