Meet Julie Bliss Mullen, The Under 30 Honoree Working To Solve The Clean Water Crisis

Meet Julie Bliss Mullen, The Under 30 Honoree Working To Solve The Clean Water Crisis

Julie Bliss Mullen

Julie Bliss Mullen has always been curious about the world around her. While growing up in Central Massachusetts, she spent much of her childhood exploring the great outdoors, and credits her parents with fostering her love of innovation by letting her discover science through experiments at home. During high school, she was a member of her school’s environmental science club and completed a senior project where she analyzed water samples from local rivers. Wanting to channel her interest in natural science towards helping others, Julie initially dreamed of becoming a medical doctor.

“Throughout my life, I have always wanted to help people. As a child, when I thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew it would have to be something that combined science with helping others.”

After high school, Julie enrolled at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), where she planned to major in environmental policy while simultaneously pursuing pre-medical coursework requirements. The summer before her junior year, she traveled to Guatemala with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), where her team immersed themselves in a community that was experiencing health issues due to contaminated drinking water supply. She and her team developed a plan with the community to harvest rainwater by retrofitting roofs to accumulate a clean water supply for the whole year for each community household. Inspired by her experience in Guatemala, Julie decided to declare an additional major in engineering after returning to school in the fall. 

“I was determined to find viable ways to provide people with clean water, and I knew that a water policy background combined with technical skills would lay the foundation to make a serious difference.” 

Though it was uncommon for students at her school to begin engineering during their junior year, Julie graduated on time with dual bachelor’s degrees in Environmental & Sustainability Studies and Environmental Engineering with a focus in water treatment. 

After graduation, Julie spent two years in the Drinking Water Unit at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Boston while also conducting graduate-level research at WPI. Seeking to delve deeper into the science behind water treatment, Julie began working towards a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As she learned more about the field, she realized that many water treatment solutions existed, but few offered the cost-effective and comprehensive water quality solution that many users urgently needed. 

As part of her PhD research, Julie discovered an electrochemical technology that could treat water by passing a small electric current through it to destroy contaminants. The lack of resulting waste products and versatility of contaminant removal stood in stark contrast to existing products on the market, such as carbon filters that traded improved water quality for landfill and pollution, and the simplicity of the technology minimized costs or required maintenance. Seeing an opportunity to impact humanity through her discovery, Julie co-founded Aclarity, LLC in 2017 to commercialize and distribute her product to consumers.