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Rebecca Gilsdorf

RELP Cohort: 2016
School: Engineering

Rebecca is a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering & Science at Stanford University, funded through an NSF Graduate Fellowship and Stanford Graduate Fellowship. Rebecca received her M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford. Prior to attending Stanford, she received her B.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she also earned certificates in African Studies and International Engineering.

As part of her undergraduate degree, Rebecca spent a semester in Uganda and Sudan working with an environmental non-profit researching building technologies that are less environmentally damaging than traditional fired bricks. Her internship also involved working with a local contractor to use these technologies to build water and sanitation infrastructure, such as rainwater harvesting systems, water tanks and latrines.

While completing her undergraduate degree, Rebecca also got involved with multiple research projects, including research on the impacts of environmental contamination on microbial populations in a nearby lake and a study of the quality of water leeched through roads stabilized with multiple industrial byproducts.

Rebecca's current research focuses on water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Her dissertation research looks at wastewater treatment in urban and peri-urban settings in Uganda, with a focus on sites where farmers use the treated wastewater for irrigation. This work, in collaboration with a local water utility, aims at understanding both (1) how we can ensure better treatment of wastewater and (2) how farmers make decisions surrounding these irrigation practices.

In addition, she works in Kenya on an impact assessment of a microfinance program aimed at spurring investment in water and sanitation improvements at the household level. As part of this study, she developed a new instrument for measuring how people spend their time, with a goal of being able to quantify both the amount of time people save when they receive household water access and what they use their time savings to do.