About Dr. Sara Beck
Dr. Sara Beck started her first career in aerospace engineering, working for six years as a NASA flight controller in support of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. However, spending a summer volunteering in Bukhaweka Village, Uganda gave her insight into the challenges faced by so many around the world involving waterborne diseases and a lack of access to safe drinking water. She began a career change, first as cofounder and president of the Central Houston Professional Partners chapter of Engineers without Borders – USA. Working on water supply and treatment projects for small communities in Uganda, Bolivia, El Salvador and Nicaragua gave Sara her first introduction to environmental engineering. She was later able to apply those skills as Project Manager for a well drilling and rainwater harvesting project in Bukhaweka Village, the same community that inspired her to pursue this field. Sara completed her Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech while still working at NASA. She then transitioned to the University of Colorado Boulder, where she received her Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 2015 under Dr. Karl Linden. Sara’s doctoral dissertation on Wavelength-Specific Effects of UV Light on Microorganisms and Viruses for Improving Water Disinfection received the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) in 2016.
Before joining UBC, Dr. Beck evaluated applications of UV LEDs in cost-effective decentralized water reuse technologies at the Asian Institute of Technology near Bangkok, Thailand, and at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology near Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Beck joined the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of British Columbia as an Assistant Professor in April of 2021 with a research group focused on understanding and preventing pathogen transmission at the confluence of public health, water quality, and innovative water treatment solutions. She and her research team use microbiology and analytical tools to improve water treatment and reuse processes and bridge the gap between knowledge and practice. At UBC, she teaches on water and wastewater treatment both for decentralized and centralized treatment systems.