Rebecca Lerner
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Students and Sustainability Profile Series

Ivan Jayawan

“Water has been my focus since I was an undergrad,” said Ivan Jayawan, an environmental engineer PhD candidate at the University of Michigan (U-M). “The way water is being managed right now, not only in Michigan but all over the world, it’s not sustainable.”

Jayawan is originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. After attending Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, he decided to come to Michigan for his master’s degree, and eventually his Ph.D. as well. For Jayawan, the reason to study at the University was simple:

“Michigan is one of the best schools for environmental engineering. It was one of the best options that I had. And then I just wanted to go to grad school.”

During his time here, he’s enjoyed the small class sizes, especially compared to the large classes he took during his undergraduate career in Singapore. Jayawan also appreciates the helpfulness of his advisors, Brian Ellis and Avery Demond, noting how important they have been to his intellectual growth.

“I like one of the quotes I found on my advisor’s door: ‘When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.’

Jayawan feels this quote is relevant to his PhD research about the regulation of water management in Michigan. His goal is to use his research to improve the management of water and apply the improvements and solutions he finds to other states that struggle with efficient water management, like California.

“In my first project, I built a groundwater model and then compared it to what the state government uses for their assessment. It’s unique [in the state of Michigan] that even though we have a rich amount of water resources, we are very proactive in making sure that water is sustainably used and managed.”

Jayawan’s research is focused on understanding the way prior background knowledge affects citizens’ response to Michigan’s water resource management issues. He’s working on a publication about this issue and hopes to submit it soon.

“This [research] is useful because the government wants to know what kind of approach you need to take when you have new regulations in water and how to approach people from different backgrounds. What kind of perspective do you need to focus on for people to understand?”

In addition to research, Jayawan is teaching groundwater hydrology, thermodynamics, aquatic chemistry, and sustainable principles of engineering to undergraduate students. He truly enjoys teaching — apart from the grading. Still, he is proud of his teaching efforts because he is learning to be a good educator and researcher.

“I feel that teaching, aquatic chemistry, especially, is satisfying for me. I’m able to explain things not limited to the class materials. Because every time I teach I try to tie it up with [with current events]. And then that’s what engages a lot of students.”

Eventually, Jayawan wants to return to Indonesia and contribute to his country’s sustainability efforts. He recognizes that sustainability is not currently the number one priority in Indonesia. There are few experts who understand sustainability in the country, which will make what he learns through his studies here particularly useful when he returns.

His desire to help his country might be helped by the connection Jayawan now shares a with some top Indonesian government officials— they’re also University of Michigan graduates.

“I got to meet them. It’s easy to connect as a fellow Michigan alum. Some of them are very influential in Indonesia. I plan to leverage their connections and influence on how to approach water and sustainability issues in Indonesia.”

His other goal, besides influencing government officials to promote sustainability, is to work as a faculty member at an Indonesian university. He will share what he has learned with other students and hopefully inspire them to care about sustainability.

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