Three recent graduates from the Water Science, Technology & Policy group (WaterSTP) in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo have received three of four top international awards for best Master’s thesis research, marking the first time so many awards have been secured from the two associations by one group in a competition year.

Kelsey Kundert, MASc graduate and Senior Engineer in the City of Calgary, and Nik Knezic, MSc graduate and current PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo, won first and second place in the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Academic Achievement Awards for best Master’s thesis. In addition, Omar Chowdhury, also an MSc graduate, received the top award for best Master’s thesis from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). These prestigious awards recognize the most outstanding Master’s thesis research from a competitive pool of international applicants.

Kundert’s thesis focused on coupled chemically-assisted filtration (CCAF) investigating approaches for increasing filter resilience during drinking water treatment to ensure that public health is protected from waterborne pathogens. Knezic’s thesis focused on innovative approaches for proactively limiting the growth of harmful algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs—such blooms pose one of the greatest climate change threats to drinking water security globally. Chowdhury received recognition for his thesis which included the development of a “Threshold Microplastics Concentration” framework to provide utilities and regulators with a science-based, easily updatable approach for screening drinking water systems to indicate whether existing treatment is sufficient for managing potential health risks attributable to waterborne microplastics or more detailed risk assessment and management strategies are needed.






Kelsey Kundert         Nik Knezic         Omar Chowdhury


The three recipients were all supervised by Dr. Monica Emelko who holds the Canada Research Chair in Water Science, Technology & Policy. Knezic was co-supervised by Dr. Mike Stone of the Department of Geography & Environmental Management while Chowdhury was co-supervised by Dr. Bill Anderson, who is a Research Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering. Knezic and Kundert are members of the forWater Network, a pan-Canadian interdisciplinary network focused on drinking water source water protection on forested landscapes. They indicated that the unique cross-collaboration of WaterSTP, the forWater Network, and a pan-Canadian network of water industry partners supported their innovative research projects resulting in their award.

Graduate students from top universities globally are nominated for conducting outstanding environmental science and engineering (AEESP) and water-related (AWWA) research program. The awards were presented at the respective Association conferences in St. Louis and San Antonio in June 2022.