Happy Planet

This 18-year old has created a water purifying system that could save the lives of millions

*six-two 35 under 35 changemakers of 2018 - water category

While most 18 year olds are happy with getting good grades and finding their feet in adult life, Rachel Chang is doing the work typically seen by a team of PhD students – developing a system that has the potential to provide clean, disease free water for millions of people.

Taking her place on our list of 35 under 35 changemakers of 2018 and nominated by our water judge, Thirst Project CEO Seth Maxwell, Rachel’s commitment to fighting the water crisis by harnessing technology and science shows intelligence, understanding and tenacity far beyond her 18 years.

Understanding how parasites and bacteria contaminate water sources that makes safe drinking water inaccessible for millions, Rachel has developed a system that leverages STEM field research to solve the water crisis by means of water purification. The system she has created detects and purifies water contaminated by bacteria including Shingella, E.coli, Salmonella and Cholera, working quicker and more accurately than current methods. Where current methods can detect up to 1000 bacteria colonies and take one to two days, Rachel’s system is far more precise, detecting as little as one reproductive bacteria colony per litre of water and instantly destroying it.

In non-science terms, Rachel’s discovery has huge implications for the millions of people across the world who lack access to clean water, and who through drinking dirty and non-purified water, face risk of disease and death.

“Rachel is highly educated and motivated to help solve the global water crisis with technical expertise. Her system alone could help spread the availability of potable water around the globe.” - Seth Maxwell

Given the groundbreaking nature of Rachel’s work it’s little wonder she, together with her research partner Ryan Thorpe, scooped the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize, beating teams from 33 other countries. Rachel and Ryan were presented their award (and prize winnings) from H.R.H Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. After all, a discovery of this magnitude deserves the highest of acclaim, and you can’t get much higher than royalty.

So what would Rachel say to other people considering working within the water field?

Without water, there is no life. Working in the water field isn’t just working for public health – it’s working for the well-being of the entire planet and everyone in it!

She’s got us convinced, that’s for sure!

To learn more about the six-two 35 under 35 initiative, and to see the individuals who made the list, head here.

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