URI professor wins Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award

KINGSTON, R.I. – June 7, 2022 – Thomas Boving, a professor of geosciences and engineering at the University of Rhode Island, is the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award, which will enable him to conduct teaching and research in India next year.

Under the award, Boving will teach at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, one of the oldest and most renowned technical institutions in South Asia, while conducting research on technologies aimed at cleaning up polluted groundwater and soil. The Fulbright-Nehru award is sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s United States-India Educational Foundation, which encourages scholarly exchange between the United States and India.

As a hydrologist and an expert in pollution remediation, Boving says the Institute was an ideal choice for his Fulbright work.

“Besides its reputation, I chose IIT Roorkee because it also offers unique opportunities to engage in project-oriented exchanges with researchers and government representatives from the National Institute of Hydrology Roorkee and the Department of Hydrology,” Boving said.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with colleagues who are heavily invested in hydrologic research.”

Water pollution is a longstanding problem in India, Boving says, and cleanup efforts have met a variety of political and technological headwinds.

“Although powerful water clean-up technologies exist, limited awareness and a general lack of experience implementing them is costing India valuable time in addressing its mounting water pollution problems,” Boving said. “To close this knowledge gap, the key elements of my collaboration with IIT Roorkee are information transfer, mentoring, curriculum-building and public education about remedial technologies.”

In particular, Boving is interested in an ongoing project led by his Roorkee colleagues aimed at cleaning up groundwater at a site contaminated by uranium. The current remediation plan calls for a permeable reactive barrier (PRB), a technique in which groundwater is channeled through a membrane that eliminates contaminants through chemical reactions.

“I will lend my expertise in remediation technology to optimize the application of this water treatment system,” Boving said.

This isn’t Boving’s first effort to share pollution remediation technologies abroad. He works extensively in Indonesia, where he and colleague Soni Pradhanang, an associate professor of geosciences at URI, have used floating wetlands — buoyant mats with live vegetation — to clean ponds and other bodies of water.

Other projects that Boving has led include an effort to assess saltwater intrusion into well water along the Rhode Island coast, and a system for destroying PFAS compounds, the stubborn “forever chemicals” that contaminate water supplies serving about a third of Americans.

Boving is set to depart for India in January 2023.