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Researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity

February 16, 2020

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A wife-husband team will present both high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle on Sunday, Feb. 16. Northwestern University's Sera Young and Julius Lucks come from different ends of the science spectrum but meet in the middle to provide critical new information to approach this global issue.

Lucks, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and an internationally recognized leader in synthetic biology, is developing a new technology platform to allow individuals across the globe to monitor the quality of their water cheaply, quickly and easily. Lucks will discuss how advances made at Northwestern's Center for Synthetic Biology are making these discoveries possible in his presentation "Rapid and Low-cost Technologies for Monitoring Water Quality in the Field."

In "A Simple Indicator of Global Household Water Experiences," Young, associate professor of anthropology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss the Household Water Insecurity Experiences Scale (, the first globally equivalent scale to measure experiences of household-level water access and use. Young led a large consortium of scholars in the development of the HWISE Scale, which permits comparisons across settings to quantify the social, political, health and economic consequences of household water insecurity. The HWISE Scale is already being used by scientists and governmental- and non-governmental organizations around the world, including the Gallup World Poll.

Both presentations will be presented with representatives from the World Bank and UNESCO as part of the session "Managing Water: New Tools for Sustainable Development" to be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Washington State Convention Center.

Prior to the 3:30 p.m. panel on Sunday, Young and Lucks will participate in an Expo Stage Debrief: "Managing Water: New Tools for Sustainable Development?" which will be held at 11:30 a.m. in the Expo Hall at the convention center. The discussion will be livestreamed.
Source contacts:

Julius Lucks at

Sera Young at

Northwestern researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity
Julius Lucks and Sera Young to speak at AAAS meeting in Seattle on Feb. 16

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