LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — From the Flint Water Crisis to water shortages across the country that might threaten the Great Lakes water supply, problems of water contamination and scarcity affect people in Michigan and the world.

“These problems are often exacerbated by climate change, aging infrastructure, emerging contaminants and poor decision-making,” said a Michigan State University spokesperson in a news release. “Michigan State University says more highly trained people are needed.”

MSU plans to develop a graduate training program to “create a highly competent workforce with the broad technological, scientific and cultural skills” to address and solve present and future water challenges. The program is coming to MSU with the help of a $3 million National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program award.

“We are surrounded by water crises, from the Flint water crisis; the years-long unsafe drinking water in Jackson, Mississippi; widespread contamination of water with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS; and prolonged drought followed by extreme flooding in California,” said Xiaobo Tan, principal investigator, MSU Research Professor and Richard M. Hong Endowed Chair in the MSU College of Engineering.

Tan said recent advances in sensors, robotics, genomics and computational modeling are creating the large-scale data necessary to confront these widespread water issues.

MSU plans to train 58 doctoral students, including 33 NRT-funded trainees, from engineering, computer sciences, biology, ecology, public health and social science. The first group of trainees will begin in the fall 2024 semester, one year from now.

Tan said the program goal is to recruit and train students from diverse backgrounds in the research and policy leadership skills needed to address the widespread water issues.

“We would like to establish a new, convergent graduate research training paradigm where students get to work at the interface of data science, water science and social science and address complex and pressing problems in water sustainability and access equity,” Tan said.