An engineer who loves water, Pascavis aspires to provide universal access
By Brian Powell
Flinn. Goldwater. Udall. And now, Marshall.
For Katie Pascavis, prestigious scholarships are becoming a regular occurrence.
The Flinn Scholar and senior at Arizona State University was one of 40 students announced last week as 2023 Marshall Scholars. The award from the British government will enable her to pursue graduate study in the United Kingdom for up to three years and receive specialized knowledge and training in the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) sector—where she aspires to work one day for international and community-based organizations.
Pascavis plans to earn a Master of Philosophy in engineering for sustainable development at the University of Cambridge followed by a Master of Science in water, sanitation, and health engineering at the University of Leeds.
“These issues are intrinsically linked to community health, gender equality, and education access, and as an engineer who loves water, this path is my way to combine my interests while also helping with this incredibly important goal of universal access,” Pascavis said.
Pascavis graduated from Basha High School in Chandler and accepted the Flinn Scholarship in 2019 from the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation. The merit-based scholarship provides a full ride valued at more than $130,000 to 20 Arizona high-school seniors each year.
Pascavis is grateful the Flinn Scholar community believed in her ability to pursue these scholarships when she did not.
“I am not sure I would have even known about the Udall, Goldwater, and Marshall Scholarships, much less have obtained them, without being a Flinn Scholar,” Pascavis said. “The Flinn Foundation provided me the freedom to pursue my interests in college and the older ‘Flinns’ acted as encouragement and inspiration.”
Pascavis said the Flinn Scholarship allowed her more time for research and to volunteer with organizations such as GlobalResolve and Engineers Without Borders. As the lead engineer on the ASU iGEM team, Pascavis designed two systems using the team’s genetically modified algae to uptake arsenic from water. She also designed a solar-driven system of optical fibers and UVC LEDs to prevent biofilms in water storage tanks. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pascavis’ team at ASU’s Luminosity Lab won the $500,000 global XPRIZE Next-Gen mask competition for a reusable N95 mask design.
Pascavis said her passion for water and sustainable engineering can be traced back to the time she spent on farms as a 4-H organization member.
“As a 5th-generation 4-Her, I am certain that I would not be a Marshall Scholar today without 4-H,” Pascavis said. “The organization taught me about both the importance of serving one’s community and the responsibility we have to share and use wisely our natural resources.”
She previously received the Goldwater Scholarship—awarded to undergraduates who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering—as well as the Udall Scholarship which is awarded for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to Native American nations or the environment. Pascavis will graduate from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU in May with degrees in mechanical engineering and global health, plus minors in sustainability and Spanish.
The new class of Marshall Scholars will begin graduate studies at universities across the United Kingdom next year, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the scholarship named in honor of former U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who proposed the Marshall Plan following World War II. The recipients were selected from more than 900 candidates nominated by colleges and universities across the country.
Flinn Scholars attend the honors colleges at ASU, Northern Arizona University, or the University of Arizona, have at least two study abroad experiences, personal mentoring from faculty, as well as exclusive intellectual, cultural, and social activities. There are about 700 current and alumni Flinn Scholars, dating back to the first class in 1986.
Pascavis is the eighth Flinn Scholar, and the first since 2008, to be awarded the Marshall Scholarship. The past Flinn Scholar awardees are Michael Chu, Ian Larkin, John Malik, Brian Lutz, Ajit Divakaruni, Matt Stone, and Megan Brand.
“To be named a Goldwater and Udall Scholar in the same year was an amazing honor for Katie. And to follow that with the Marshall Scholarship is a testament to her academic achievements and desire to solve the world’s most pressing and complex problems,” said Anne Lassen, vice president, scholarship and education initiatives at the Flinn Foundation.
“Katie exemplifies what it means to be a Flinn Scholar, and we are grateful our award and her time at ASU have played key roles in her academic success,” Lassen added.