May 17 , 2012


McMaster receives $1-million for worldwide water research, student scholarships


Hamilton, Ont. May 17, 2012Research focusing on one of the most critical resources on the planet has been given a dramatic boost at McMaster.


The Philomathia Foundation announced today a $1-million gift to establish the Philomathia Foundation Water Project, an initiative that will support a professorship in water policy and research as well as fellowships and travel scholarships for students studying water-related issues.


Dr. Wilfred Chung, CEO of the Foundation, which is dedicated to improving humanity through its support of research and technology, says McMaster offers a unique opportunity to address what UN-Water calls a global crisis.


"Water issues are not only important in Canada, but affect many nations around the world,” said Chung, a 1975 McMaster chemistry alumnus.


“Shortages of clean water are becoming endemic, and this is a major cause of poor global health. The Philomathia Foundation is delighted to be able to engage the expertise at McMaster to tackle these difficult issues. We are hopeful that by relating new ideas in engineering with global policy development, McMaster will become a world leader in this area," he says.


A new professor with expertise in engineering and public policy will be recruited for the project and will have an adjunct appointment at the United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment and Health.


McMaster enjoys a strong relationship with the United Nations University, located at the McMaster Innovation Park, which includes the joint 2010 launch of the graduate programme called Water Without Borders.


The Philomathia Fellowships will support international PhD students undertaking water research at McMaster, while the travel scholarships will support student research in countries such as Kenya and India, where the search for solutions to water issues is particularly pressing.


Sarah Haliburton, a fourth-year nursing student and 2011 recipient of the Philomathia Travel Scholarship knows well of the dire need for clean water. 

She spent three months working in a clinic in Kolkata, India, where hundreds of women, men and children lined up daily for treatment.


“I saw children suffering from diarrhea and dehydration, skin and fungal infections, women and men suffering from wound infections,” she recalls.


“Their homes do not have clean running water and entire communities must rely on local, small ponds as sources.  Rural families bathe, swim, and wash clothes, dishes, livestock all in the same pond.  They then cook with this same water, often unable to boil it because fuel is too costly, making the likelihood of contracting a parasite or bacterial infection inevitable.”


Those months in India taught Haliburton that nursing interventions and patient education alone won’t alleviate the problem. A coordinated effort from different fields of study is needed, she says, where researchers can work together to find answers.


"This gift will allow us to immediately start working on solutions to the global water crisis, as well as train future water researchers and policymakers. We're very grateful for the Philomathia Foundation's foresight in this area," says Patrick Deane, president of McMaster.


"Thanks to the Philomathia Foundation's generosity, McMaster will continue to build on its expertise in water and related research."


“This generous grant strengthens a critically important research and academic programme,” said UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel. “The Water Without Borders programme is helping develop tomorrow’s leaders in the water research arena.”




For more information, please contact:



Michelle Donovan
Public Relations Manager
McMaster University
905-525-9140 ext. 22869


Wade Hemsworth
Public Relations Manager
McMaster University
905-525-9140, ext. 27988