Parvinder Thiara, a senior at Harvard University, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study water sanitation technology with the aim of developing an economical method for disinfection that will help cleanse and protect the world’s water supply. As one of this year’s Rhodes Scholars, Thiara will join 31 other U.S. college students in two years of study at Oxford University in England.

During his time at Oxford, Thiara will pursue two master’s degrees, one in theoretical chemistry and one in water science policy. He hopes to combine the knowledge he gains from each track to develop new methods for water disinfection that are both scientifically and politically viable.

Thiara has already cofounded a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving water quality. His interest in clean water is, in part, tied to his grandfather, who died of waterborne disease in India.