The Ken Kennedy Institute's August Member of the Month: Pratiksha Dongare, Assistant Research Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering.
How would you explain your research in 1-2 sentences?
Water scarcity is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today, and desalination allows converting abundant unusable saline water reserves on earth to freshwater to address this issue. My research focuses on making desalination sustainable by efficiently utilizing solar energy and waste heat as input power.
How does your work impact the community at large?
Making desalination sustainable and low waste would make it accessible to communities in resource-limited areas. It will also help reduce the environmental impacts of current brine waste disposal practices in place, like deep well injection. The broad goal is to create a circular economy that minimizes energy and water waste.
What kind of collaborations are you looking for at Rice and within the community?
I want to expand my expertise beyond desalination research and learn about how research in the lab can help influence water treatment and water management policies in place. This will help assess opportunities and challenges for incorporating new water treatment solutions in existing urban water infrastructure, enabling waste reduction, removal of specific contaminants, and disaster preparedness in case of natural calamities like Hurricane Harvey.
How do you see computation and data advancing in the future?
Real-time data collection and monitoring of the water quality reaching our homes and the water bodies around us, and taking immediate steps to reach a desired water quality when a disruption happens is key to creating a healthy future. We don’t have cost-effective real-time water quality monitoring tools available currently, but many research groups worldwide are working on creating better and more scalable sensors to be able to achieve this goal in a few years. I hope computation and data will help make the water infrastructure more transparent, resilient, and reliable worldwide.
How do you see the Ken Kennedy Institute supporting you and/or your research?
The interdisciplinarity of the Ken Kennedy Institute is truly impressive. In today’s world, every discipline has access to enormous amounts of data that if understood correctly with the right questions in mind can help advance the field. Coming from an experimental Applied Physics background, I recently took extensive coursework and projects to learn Data Science and Machine Learning methods. Working in collaboration with graduate students and researchers in these fields, I want to learn the research nuances of these big data-driven disciplines and come up with strategies to advance experimental sustainability-focused discoveries and real-life implementation policies. The Ken Kennedy Institute provides a great platform for such interdisciplinary collaborations to take place.
What is your favorite book or movie?
It is difficult to beat nostalgia, so my favorite book is “Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam”. I read this book in high school and this book is one of the reasons why I decided to be a scientist.
Do you have any words of inspiration you would like to share?
Research requires patience, resilience, persistence, and tenacity. Here are some quotes that have inspired me in this journey. “Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow” – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” - Confucius
See Pratiksha's Rice Profile here.