Dhwani Bhatt is a Fall 2023 Recipient of the Srinivasan Family Awards for Projects in Emerging Markets, run by the Center for Emerging Markets at Northeastern University.

Driven by her passion for environmental sustainability and community service, Dhwani Bhatt, a rising third-year honors Chemical Engineering student at Northeastern University, has spent the past year leading an innovative project in Uganda to address critical environmental challenges. Having grown up in Uganda, Dhwani understands the sustainability issues that many rural communities in the country face.

In the summer of 2023, Dhwani established a partnership with Sadhguru School, a rural institution in Fort Portal, Uganda, and Biogas Solutions Uganda Limited (BSUL) to develop a sustainable energy solution for the school's daily cooking needs. The school's reliance on firewood for cooking is unsustainable and challenging due to issues of deforestation in the area, high transportation costs and restrictive laws on tree cutting, urging the need for an alternative energy source. To provide an alternative solution, Dhwani worked with BSUL to develop a biogas system for the school.

Upon her return to Northeastern in the fall, Dhwani conducted extensive lab research on various waste samples similar to those from the school to determine their potential for fuel. She traveled back to Uganda in December to visit local farmers and communities, learning about the efficiency and benefits of existing biogas systems and gathering feedback on her design. By Spring 2024, Dhwani had developed a detailed contract outlining expectations, roles, timelines, and budgets, and commenced construction.

Now back in Uganda for the summer, Dhwani is supervising the construction of the biogas system and conducting maintenance training sessions for the school's staff and students. She prepared lesson plans to educate students on the science of biogas production and its relevance to global sustainability efforts. This educational component aims to spark students' interest in clean energy technologies and complement the school's project-based learning philosophy, with a focus on agriculture and farming.

Construction on an underground biogas dome and mixer system is complete, and the first truckloads of organic waste have been added to the dome to begin cultivating necessary bacteria for biogas production. Following this, the school will soon begin feeding the dome with food scraps, latrine waste, and farming waste. The community eagerly anticipates commissioning the first biogas and looks forward to their first meal cooked using clean energy.

The project has had a significant impact on the students and staff in alignment with the school's mission of environmental consciousness. This system has not only provided a sustainable energy solution but also opened possibilities for constructing a new, cleaner kitchen space, enhancing the overall health and safety of the cooking environment.

Dhwani's project exemplifies the transformative potential of student-led initiatives in emerging markets through the Srinivasan Family Awards at the Center for Emerging Markets. Her work in Uganda addresses pressing environmental issues and provides a scalable model for sustainable energy solutions in similar contexts worldwide.