Fulbright Award Winner to Make Clean Water Access a Priority

By Hugh Markey

Professor Joseph Goodwill of the College of Engineering will soon be bringing his teaching and researching skills to the University of Trento in Italy now that he has become a Fulbright scholar. Goodwill studies and teaches the application of physics and chemical principles to improve water quality, with the objective to improve that quality such that humans can drink it. The award came after a long process that finally ended in March of 2023. “It’s quite the honor,” Goodwill said. “These Fulbrights are competitive, and of course the opportunity to represent the United States in some way is a mighty responsibility.”

Goodwill has an extensive background in working with international organizations to address water quality issues in developing countries. “I’ve had prior experience with the International Water Association, including an organization called Water for People, and with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but not with the Fulbright commission.” He’s also worked in sub-Saharan Africa, rural Malawi, India, Bolivia, and Ghana. “And so lessons learned there informed my application,” he said.

Even after learning he had won the award, Goodwill suffered from a problem many people know all too well. “I have to admit to a little bit of imposter syndrome when that letter contained highlights of what Fulbright alumnae have gone on to do. It includes heads of state, MacArthur Fellows, and Nobel Prize Laureates. It left me with some aspirational goals for a later time.”

Goodwill hopes his work abroad will result in better water quality for areas that may not have the funds or the structure in place for extensive changes in an existing water system. “One of my overarching career goals is to just try to improve that situation.

“What I propose doing for the research at the University of Trento is try to develop a new approach to improving water quality: relatively simple, relatively low input that may be appropriate for developing countries. Then on the education side, I proposed a new class called ‘Water Treatment and Disadvantaged Communities.’ It would be taking the standard curriculum that we teach to American engineers here at the University of Rhode Island and asking difficult questions about appropriateness and sustainability in an area with much less resources.” Goodwill is scheduled to begin his work in Italy in the spring of 2024.