To Inspire. To Be Inspired. – 30 Stories on HKUST Faculty, Alumni and Students

Environmental engineer Prof. Chen Guanghao is unafraid to get his hands dirty, and his focus on wastewater has pioneered a paradigm shift in our urban water cycle, with his award-winning technology innovation “SANI Process”. For many, sewage and sanitation are unsavory topics. You might never want to think about what happens when you flush your toilet or drain your sink. But the reality is, our management and treatment of wastewater is a mark of our advancement as a civilization. We have come a long, long way from medieval open sewers in the streets, but water scarcity continues to be a major global issue in modern times. It’s estimated there will be a 40 per cent shortfall in freshwater resources by 2030. Combine this with an increasing population, and unless new measures for water management are introduced, including potable reuse of wastewater, millions of people around the world are in big trouble. An international leader in water management and wastewater treatment technologies, Prof. Chen Guanghao has made it his life’s work to overcome this specific problem using innovation. For the past 27 years, Prof. Chen has been developing wastewater treatment technology at HKUST — but perhaps this is unsurprising for a man who describes himself as “obsessed” with water. It’s even in his name, with “Hao” meaning abundant water. When Prof. Chen was a child growing up in Jiaxing, in the Zhejiang Province of China, his fortune-teller uncle told him, “Kid, your life is inseparable from water.” Though he knew his calling early on, Prof. Chen endured the hard slog true of any scientific endeavor — he spent the first seven years of his research without achieving a single breakthrough. Each day seemed to be just a repeat of similar tasks, moving sewage water here and there, gathering data and analyzing results, all without knowing if what he and his team were doing was actually valuable at all. But Prof. Chen knew this was his calling and what was at stake. It took enormous perseverance to stay the course and continue pushing forward, and he was spurred on by the increasing scarcity of water in many countries around the world as a result of overpopulation, overconsumption, and serious water pollution. 105