Joseph: “I am passionate about decoupling water and energy”

Joseph Mooney is passionate about decoupling water and energy. Photo: EJWP

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Joseph Mooney is working as a postdoctoral researcher on a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Limerick which is funded through the European Commission. Joseph has participated in EJWP events with the 4th group and is a programme contributor-at-large. He is passionate about decoupling water and energy.  

What and where is your current work position?

“At this moment I am working on the research project SEAFRONT. It is focused on developing novel experimental techniques that will help understand the fundamentals of porous substrates for passive solar desalination, with the eventual motivation to create affordable and robust devices that can be deployed in developed or developing regions.”

What is a water or environmental topic/area that you see as growing in concern in the future? What is there to do about this? 

“Too many opportunities within water stem from growing climate and consumer related problems. With increased population and consumer demand, in terms of food, textiles, transport, the Internet of Things, and energy, the world is rapidly moving towards a water-scarce future. Without water, many of the aforementioned sectors will begin to fail. By improving water use and governance policy, combined with continual innovations in the area, we can push back against the water crisis. Some of the most topical subjects that come to mind are water use efficiency within the agricultural sector, improving our water infrastructure to meet future water demands, and providing goods and services with less water (for example, within the textile industry). The possibilities to make an impact in water are truly endless. We need a collective ambition and the right training utensils to achieve these goals.”

Are there innovations in or around the water sector that you see as significant for further development and benefit?

“I think that the creation of a water-smart society is highly promising. Decoupling energy and water and water dependence is also an area I am passionate about, and I think waves could be made! Reducing the price of sustainably sourced water and materials is also an area in which I expect to see great advancements. Finally, atmospheric water harvesting is still at an early stage but holds particular promise in supporting the fresh water production.”

What is your view on making water resources more resilient to increasing climate impacts in Europe, especially after conditions from summer 2022?

“The past decade has shown how vital it is to be climate resilient. Europe often struggles with insufficient water supplies, particularly in the summer months. Rivers and lakes have seen record low levels due to over-extraction and passive evaporation during hot climates. Many industries have suffered due to a lack of water resilience, farmers are left defenseless, consumer prices are rising, and governments are imposing water bans for longer durations year on year.”

What motivates you to participate with EJWP?

“EJWP is at the forefront of connecting and training young professionals in the water sector. I wanted to join EJWP to meet and discuss with other like-minded professionals on what the most pivotal opportunities in water are.Coming from a research background, I was also very enthusiastic to get an industrial insight into water solutions and how ideas can be converted from the conceptual stage to a final product.”

What are the benefits and/or challenges of a European water-sector network?

“Open and transparent knowledge transfer is an essential element to dealing with our water crisis. Furthermore, to make Europe more competitive as a water-smart continent, we need to become better connected. A robust network guarantees fast and effective knowledge transfer, collaboration, and development.”

What value do you see for organisations from EJWP participation?

“Organisations can benefit from EJWP by their professionals building a stronger, more robust, and connected ecosystem that will benefit them for future projects. Furthermore, organisations can become more engrossed and connected to the water network by collaborating with and participating in EJWP.”

Why is it important for academics as well to have these interactions and learnings as experienced in EJWP?  

“Academics sometimes have tunnel vision and forget about the interdisciplinary aspects of their work. For instance, I used the word “nexus” before, but never put in practice. Interacting with EJWP has helped me put this in use, because I’ve seen that EJWP is working in the real sector through implementing concepts in the projects. This gives a us all view of the water sector in seeing how the infrastructure may change with geography. I’ve heard first-hand about challenges members are facing, and the solutions they brought in. Truly identifying the problems is a big step in this before reaching for a solution, and working in this friendly and professional environment is inspiring.”

How do you view further development of skills for those already established in the workplace – or with advanced degrees? 

“Upskilling, upskilling – you can never get enough. You may only be focused on technical side in a position, never really realizing how a completely different strategy or perspective can benefit your work. We all have plans, but never know what the future holds, so it’s better to be prepared in multiple ways, especially as academic opportunities can be staggered. Having time for development and bettering prospects is the right thing for me. Working on a PhD and being in closed academic environment, you may hear only your own voice way too much. It’s nice to have a space set aside for personal growth – and how can you help others if you can’t help yourself. It is better than just reading books!” 

Where and in which position would you like to be working in five years?

“I plan to commercialise my research to target pivotal problems within the global energy-water nexus. I hope to collaborate with some top researchers around the world to reduce our dependence on the energy sector for the provision of fresh water and provide robust and scalable solutions that can be deployed in many developed and developing regions across the globe.”

What and where did you study?

“I completed my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and PhD in the University of Limerick, My phd focused on developing a fundamental understanding of the thermal challenges associated with two-phase thermal management of high-power electronics and the 5G wireless infrastructure.”

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