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University of Virginia Student Ethan Heil to Receive Udall Scholarship

April 14, 2010 — Ethan Heil, a civil engineering major at the University of Virginia, has received a 2010 Udall Scholarship.

The scholarship, given by the Morris K. Udall Foundation in honor of the late Arizona congressman, provides up to $5,000 for one year of study. An independent review committee selected Heil as one of 80 winners, chosen for their commitment to careers in the environment, health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; and academic achievement.

"I am very honored to receive this award," said Heil, a third-year student. "It represents my commitment to the environment and provides me with an avenue to meet similar students at a four-day conference in Tucson, Ariz. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Heil, 21, son of John and Elizabeth Heil of Salem, has worked on several research projects, including implementing a sustainable water filtration system in rural South Africa, sustainable forestry in Mozambique and stormwater management and low-impact design with ecoMOD.

"Ethan is an outstanding student," said professor Paxton Marshall, with whom Heil took a multidisciplinary design class. "He is also exceptionally responsible and committed to community service environmental causes. He has the ability to integrate technical considerations of a project with economic, cultural and project management considerations."

Marshall said Heil demonstrates the commitment to natural resource preservation, sustainability and social justice that characterized the work of Morris Udall.

"Everything Ethan takes on he does well," Marshall said. "He will be an outstandingly productive Udall Scholar."

Professor James A. Smith, who teachers civil and environmental engineering and is Heil's academic adviser, said he is in the top 1 or 2 percent of all engineering students at the University.

"He is highly intelligent, extremely motivated and very caring about our global environment," Smith said. "He also works extremely well in team situations, and he has earned the respect of faculty and his student peers. He is quite possibly the best undergraduate student I have known here at the University of Virginia."

He said Heil started pursuing research opportunities from the time he entered U.Va.

"He was selected for several prestigious research awards, including leading an interdisciplinary team of undergraduates to redesign and repair a slow-sand filtration system for water purification in a rural South African community," Smith said.

Based on Heil's work with that project, Smith invited him to participate in a water-treatment project in Guatemala, performing water-quality analyses on several hundred household water samples.

"He did an excellent job, and worked well under the difficult living conditions in that community," Smith said.

Heil is a graduate of the Salem High School and the Roanoke Valley Governor's School for Science and Technology. Since attending U.Va. he has received Intermediate Honors, earned second place in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Entrepreneurial Concept Competition, and won the Madison House 100-Hour Award for volunteer service. He is president of Engineering Students Without Borders and a member of ecoMOD, Bridging the Gap, the Rivanna Trails Program, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team, Chi Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi and Golden Key Honor Societies. He is also an engineering student adviser.

"U.Va. had strong applicants again this year and I'm pleased that Ethan was recognized by the Udall Foundation," said Katherine Walters, assistant director at the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. "He was a true joy to work with – genuine, motivated and humble. He is a superb representative of U.Va. and I look forward to continue hearing about how he uses his engineering background to positively affect the environment."

Heil plans to pursue graduate study in sustainability or sustainable design.

The Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Foundation was authorized by Congress in 1992 to honor Udall's legacy of public service. The foundation is supported by a trust fund in the U.S. Treasury and contributions from the private sector.

— By Matt Kelly

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