And it launched Cerf in a direction of working with water resources.
“For my undergraduate capstone, under the advisement of Lisa Colosi Peterson, I worked with a team of students to investigate the transport of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from hospital sinks to the local wastewater treatment plant and finally into the environment,” Cerf said. “In my current position as a staff engineer at SCS Engineers, I support projects to prevent and mitigate water and air contamination near landfills. Solid waste and water issues are interconnected.”
Peterson, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment who helped launch a successful program testing for COVID-19 in wastewater from UVA dormitories, said she was impressed with Cerf’s capstone work.
“I had the privilege of teaching Anna in an upper-level elective and supervising her fourth-year thesis,” she said. “She was fantastic to work with in both venues. She was the also the recipient of UVA Engineering’s Outstanding Student Award and she was one of our brightest stars in recent memory.”
Dana M. Elzey, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Society, director of UVA’s Rodman Scholars program and an alumna of the University of Stuttgart, knows Cerf as a student and a Rodman Scholar. Elzey also taught her in two first-year classes.
“This is where I first saw the conscientious dedication to scholarship and deeply ingrained passion for environmental causes that are her signature,” Elzey said, noting that Cerf and her team led a composting project in their residence halls. “I was very impressed with her level of organization, professionalism and initiative. As a leader, she is optimistic, respectful and energetic; she seems always to have the end goal in mind. I have never experienced a situation in which I saw any indication of her own ego. As a citizen, she is caring, compassionate and engaged; her work with the Society of Women Engineers at UVA, reaching out to middle/high school girls to encourage them to consider technical career paths, is a great example.”
Elzey also worked with Cerf on her study-abroad project to assess water quality and access in Nicaragua.
“Anna was instrumental in planning and carrying out the project and in securing funding through a $20,000 University Public Service Grant,” Elzey said. “I have encountered very few students with her combination of independent initiative, organizational and leadership ability and passion for problem solving at the intersection of community and the environment.”
Chris Elliott, an assistant dean in the McIntire School of Commerce and a Rotary representative, said Cerf exemplifies a perfect alignment with her academic interest in water treatment and sanitation and Rotary’s longstanding commitments around clean water.
“While Anna was a student at UVA, she pursued several undergraduate research opportunities with UVA faculty to study wastewater, emerging contaminants and water treatment interventions,” Elliott said “This graduate program is a perfect chance for Anna to expand her knowledge base, to pursue research with a clear and pressing environmental impact, and to collaborate with German engineers and faculty on research that makes a difference in the treatment and utilization of one of the Earth’s most important natural resources.”
“Anna’s professional experience and aspiration align well with the Water and Sanitation focus area,” said Ted Hussar, a Rotary official in Arlington, who said Cerf is a good fit for the scholarship program.
“We believe Anna’s values align well with Rotary International’s goals and her commitment to solving water and sanitation issues is clear,” he said. “Anna’s professors speak highly of her work ethic and passion for her field of study. I am confident Anna will thrive during her master’s program at the University of Stuttgart and continue to have a long-term impact in the water resources field.”
A Peter and Crisler Quick Jefferson Scholar and a Rodman Scholar, Cerf was president of the Society of Women Engineers and a member of the Engineering Student Council, UVA American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter and the Raven Society. She was a student employee at the UVA Office for Sustainability and a civil engineering teaching assistant. She received UVA Engineering’s Outstanding Student Award, a Louis T. Rader Civil Engineering Award, an Edgar F. Shannon Award and a Community Based Undergraduate Research Grant.
A Lawn resident, Cerf conducted research at the Environmental Research and Education Foundation; had an internship at the Environmental Defense Fund; and is currently working for SCS Engineers, a Long Beach, California-based environmental consulting and contracting firm.
Rotary Global Grant Scholarships, funded by the members of a Rotary District, are matched with Global Grant funds from Rotary International. Charlottesville is a part of Rotary District 7610, which administers the scholarship contribution and selection process each year for students who live or study in the Central and Northern Virginia area.
Several local Rotarians who also work at the University have recently formed a UVA-Rotary affiliate group. Joan Gore, a retired UVA faculty member and founding director of UVA Education Abroad, leads the nomination process through the UVA-Rotary Affiliate group.
“We have had the privilege of meeting and sending forward outstanding candidates,” Elliott said. “In just the past five years we are thrilled that nine UVA students have received this scholarship to pursue graduate study outside of the U.S., for a total of $400,000.”