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Posted on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Meet Emily Cornman, one of 10 students selected for a 2020 Summer Research Fellowship. Emily, a senior biology and sociology major from Templeton, Pennsylvania, is passionate about clean water education and helping people live healthier lives. The summer fellowship has enabled Emily to gather data for her project, “Evaluating Wine to Water: Ceramic Silver-impregnated Pot and Candle Filters as a Sustainable Solution for the Global Water Crisis,” which examines three different types of household water filtration systems used in developing countries. Emily was mentored by Dr. Joseph Balczon, associate professor of biology.

Why did you apply for a Summer Research Fellowship?
I applied for the Summer Research Fellowship because I wanted to be able to dedicate myself full time to my research. Most students have to collect data for their research projects during the school semester when they also have other classes and assignments to focus on. The project I am working on is also part of my senior biology capstone and collecting the data during the summer allows me to focus more on my classes during the fall semester as well as writing my research paper. The fellowship allows me to apply my whole self at data collection without worrying about keeping my grades up in semester courses.

Why is this project important to you?

Reliable access to a clean water source is a convenience that a large portion of the population still lacks. Statistics show that approximately two billion people use a drinking source contaminated with feces, with over 500,000 deaths related to diarrheal diseases annually. I go on a humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic every year with an organization called Steel City Missions. We work with local communities to provide clean water education, distribute water filters and teach good hygiene techniques. We have previously worked with an organization called Wine to Water who makes and provides us with ceramic water filters to distribute. This work has allowed me to see the impact that water filtration system has on peoples’ lives firsthand—the adults aren't sick all the time, the kids don't have parasites, the communities flourish, money is saved because they don't have to buy “clean” water every week. I have a passion for clean water education and helping communities live healthier and happier lives because of it. In order to live out this passion in the best way, I want to figure out which water filtration system will serve the people best, so I am comparing two different ceramic filtration models from Wine to Water to a newer system called a Sawyer Point ONE filter. I am running many tests comparing the three filters regarding flow rate, durability and bacterial removal effectiveness to determine which is the best option to distribute to the Dominican people for our mission group, but hopefully this research can help other humanitarian organizations make an informed decision on the best types of filters to distribute.
Tell us about your faculty mentor.
Dr. Joseph Balczon is great to work with. He has supported my project idea from the get-go and really helped me to make it possible. He demonstrates lab techniques I need to know and then allows me to try them on my own. He is always available to answer my questions and research new things that he might not know. I really appreciate all the work he has put in so far and his encouragement for this research.

Are you involved with any organizations or activities at Westminster?
I am a member of the Honors Program, the national biology honorary Tri-Beta, Habitat for Humanity, Ultimate Frisbee Club and am secretary of the Pre-Health Club.

What are your post-Westminster plans?
After graduating from Westminster, I will be attending Lake Erie's College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), where I will pursue my dreams of becoming a physician and doing medical missions.

To learn more about Westminster’s biology major, visit

Sponsored by the Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research, Summer Research Fellowships at Westminster College allow students to conduct hands-on research and creative projects under the guidance of our experienced faculty mentors.