Environmental Science Major Scores Big Internship

Ezazul Haque, a senior majoring in Environmental Health at York College/CUNY, is having an inspiring spring and summer this year. Haque recently wowed the College community with his presentation on using the nutrition from New York City’s waste water for processing as bio fuel. Equally important, he is concerned with the damage being caused to humans by toxins in the water supply in developing countries such as his homeland of Bangladesh. So between fuel and drinking, his academic focus seems to be all water all the time.

His faculty mentor, Dr. Ratan Dhar, whose expertise includes biogeochemistry, environmental science and hydrogeology, explained that New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was sending waste water to the University of Tennessee for the process.

“I asked them, ‘Why are you sending it all the way to Tennessee when York is right here,’ said Dhar. “[So] we’ve brought it to York. We [have] found lots of toxic metal in it. After this we’ll send it back to DEP.”

Haque’s research, which he presented at York’s Third Annual Undergraduate Research Day has also impressed beyond the college’s 50-acre campus. This summer he is engaged in research at Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP) at Columbia University, with Dr. Joseph Korevec.

SPHSP is a 10-week program from May 28th through August 3rd. under the Columbia University Medical Center, Mailman School of Public Health. His first week was spent in orientation at Columbia followed by a week at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia for more orientation.  He is also receiving free GRE Preparation and courses in public health, epidemiology, health disparities and cultural competence.

Haque, who came to the United States as a child from Bangladesh, was initially studying Computer Engineering at City College. However, a trip back home triggered a switch in his academic and professional interests.

“After going to Bangladesh for the first time in 12 years in January of 2011, I was moved by the experience,” he explained. “I wanted to help improve the quality of life of so many people by providing them with something simple: clean water.”

Haque chose to enroll in York’s Environmental Health program for purely practical reasons of geography; but he was in for a real bonus.

“After deciding to change my major, I chose York College because it is within walking distance from my house,” he said. “And after speaking to Dr. Dhar, I was very motivated to pursue my degree here. I told him about my interest in helping [to] improve the lives of so many people around the world. He asked me to start working with him in the lab.  I’m very fortunate to have him as my mentor, he inspires me to work hard and have fun with it.”

At Columbia, Haque is also fortunate to be working with impressive mentors.

He has been invited by Dr. Joseph Graziano, director of Environmental Health Science at Columbia University, to spend part of his internship with him as well.

Dr. Graziano’s scholarship is dedicated to “researching and understanding the various causes and consequences of exposure environmental metals.” His work, reportedly, has led to the strengthening of healthcare legislation, development of “critical medication to treat lead poisoning and helped roughly 100,000 people reduce their levels of arsenic exposure.” Arsenic, according to reports, can lead to heart damage and multiple organ failures.

Coincidentally, Hague’s York mentor, Dr. Dhar, last year published a new book, Arsenic, A Silent Killer, and its Biogeochemistry in Groundwater. The book, Dr. Dhar explains, is “the result from a series of laboratory microcosm experiments using a representative natural sediment sample,” collected from Araihazar, Bangladesh.

Not surprisingly, Haque is also a volunteer with the nonprofit group, Charity: Water. Their mission, he says, is “to help bring clean and safe drinking water to the billion people” who live without it. At a fundraising event in December, 2011, he spoke to potential donors about current projects, the mission, and importance of clean water.

“Haque’s acceptance into the internship program at Columbia followed a rigorous application process where more than 1000 applied.

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