S-D4 Confluence of Government, Industry and Academic Research Activities

The confluence of demands and needs posed by the food and energy sectors require efficient water use and water reuse technologies through innovative, integrated and interdisciplinary approaches to address the challenges of food and energy production. Sound management plans and policies by governments and businesses to protect scarce, vital freshwater resources are required. Research innovations created by scientists and engineers are also required to mitigate water pollution and pathogen threats to global water sustainability. This session will examine how government, industry, and academic research sectors can promote deeper interconnections and engagement in meaningful dialogue on mitigating critical risk drivers including competition for water, lessening regulation pressures, aging/inadequate infrastructure, water pollution, and climate variability.


  • Patricia A. Sobecky, Professor and Associate Provost, The University of Alabama
  • Carl A. Pinkert, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, The University of Alabama
  • Melanie Beazley, Assistant Professor, The University of Central Florida


  • Bennett Bearden, Director, Water Policy and Law Institute, University of Alabama
  • Peter Colohan, Senior Advisor to the Chief Scientist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Ching-Hua Huang, Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering , Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Greg Koch, Senior Director, Global Water Stewardship, The Coca-Cola Company

Dr. Patricia Sobecky’s work focuses on applying innovative approaches from the broad fields of molecular biology, engineering, and environmental microbiology to help solve societal challenges posed by man-made and natural contaminant risks to soil and water quality in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine systems. She has authored 60 scientific publications, served as chief scientist for oceanographic cruises in the Gulf of Mexico, and is an editor for the international journal FEMS Microbiology Ecology. She has received grant funding from DOE, NSF, ONR, and industry. She is currently funded by The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to assess impact, recovery, and restoration efforts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. 205-348-4890 psobecky@ua.edu

Dr. Melanie Beazley is an early career scientist in a tenure-earning Assistant Professor position in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Central Florida. She earned her Ph.D. in Geochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and held postdoctoral fellowships in microbiology at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Alabama. Her research centers on the fate and transport of contaminants in natural environments including soils, sediments, groundwater, and surface waters. She has over 10 years of experience in contaminant bioremediation including heavy metals, radionuclides, and hydrocarbons. Dr. Beazley has participated in research projects coordinated among multiple universities and government laboratories. 407-823-2171 melanie.beazley@ucf.edu

Dr. Carl A. Pinkert joined the University of Alabama (UA) in 2013 and serves as Vice President for Research and Economic Development and as a tenured Professor of Biological Sciences. He provides leadership and oversees university-wide research enhancement and compliance activities, development of research infrastructure, and oversight of technology transfer and economic development activities. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. His research revolved around animal modeling and transgenesis primarily targeting human developmental and metabolic diseases. He served as an editor of Transgenic Research and on editorial boards of five others. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2011. 205-348-4566 cap@ua.edu

Dr. Bennett Bearden’s legal, political, and negotiating experiences have placed him squarely in the center of one of Alabama’s most important natural resources issues: water policy. Dr. Bearden is the founding director of the Water Policy and Law Institute at the University of Alabama and former chair of the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG), the Governor’s state water policy task force. He also serves as Special Counsel on Water Law and Policy to the Governor of Alabama. Dr. Bearden holds a doctorate (J.S.D. degree, legal education’s counterpart to the Ph.D.) in water law and policy from McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Dr. Bearden’s current research involves policy analysis of the Alabama Irrigation Initiative in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus. 205-247-3683, bbearden@ua.edu

Dr. Ching-Hua Huang has more than 20 years of research and teaching experience on water quality engineering and environmental chemistry. She has directed federal, state and industry research projects focusing on drinking water safety, wastewater treatment and reuse, environmental fate and mitigation of emerging contaminants, advanced water treatment process development, waste remediation and resource recovery. Dr. Huang’s water research spans from municipal water systems, to storm water and to water for food processing. She has published more than ninety peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and conference proceedings and is a frequent invited speaker at international conferences and universities. The research by Dr. Huang and her students has received honors from the American Chemical Society and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 404-894-7694 ching-hua.huang@ce.gatech.edu

Peter Colohan assists NOAA leadership on issues relating to water and drought and in the management and oversight of NOAA’s research portfolio. From 2010-2014, Peter served as Assistant Director for Environmental Information and Senior Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He also served as the White House chair of the United States Group on Earth Observations and led the development of the National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. He created the Climate Data and Tools Working Group of the President’s Climate Resilience and Preparedness Council, and chaired a steering group on water science and technology initiatives under the Committee on Environment Natural Resources and Sustainability. Mr. Colohan facilitated the establishment of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an intergovernmental body involving over 90 governments, five United Nations agencies, and more than 50 international organizations, and served as the body’s Executive Officer from 2003 to 2007. 202-482-6101 Peter.Colohan@noaa.gov

Greg Koch has nearly 30 years of experience and is a globally recognized leader in water resource management and leads Coca-Cola’s global water stewardship program across some 1,000 facilities and numerous agricultural supply regions, focusing on: efficiency and wastewater management; watershed protection and climate change adaptation; community water initiatives; and water policy engagement. Nexus analyses and modeling is part of business risk assessment and mitigation efforts, as well as a central theme in water policy engagement and reform efforts. 404-676-7698 gkoch@coca-cola.com


  • Patricia A. Sobecky, Professor and Associate Provost, The University of Alabama
  • Carl A. Pinkert, Vice President for Research and Economic Development, The University of Alabama
  • Melanie Beazley, Assistant Professor, The University of Central Florida

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