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Research Team

Evan A Thomas, PhD, PE, MPH is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Sweet (Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies) Laboratory, and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. Evan works at the interface of engineering, environmental health and social business, with professional experience working in government, industry, non-profits and academia. Evan holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) in Environmental Engineering in the State of Texas, and holds a Masters in Public Health from the Oregon Health and Science University.

At Portland State, the SweetLab designs and tests sustainable life support technologies for spacecraft and developing countries. The SweetLab's current primary focus is developing and implementing remotely accessible instrumented monitoring technologies designed to improve the collection of effectiveness evidence in global health programs, including high efficiency cookstoves, water pumps, household water filters, sanitation systems, pedestrian footbridges and other developing world appropriate technologies. The SweetLab has projects in India, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Haiti and other countries with partners including the Gates Foundation, USAID, Mercy Corps, the Lemelson Foundation, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and DelAgua. The SweetLab also has on-going work with the NASA-Johnson Space Center on microgravity fluid management systems.

Evan is also a social business entrepreneur engaged in global health programs. Evan was a founding volunteer with Engineers Without Borders-USA in 2002, which led to co-founding Manna Energy Limited in 2007. Manna was acquired by DelAgua Health in 2013. In 2012, Evan co-founded SWEETSense Inc., an Oregon technology company co-owned by Portland State University and Manna. Evan is currently the Chief Operating Officer of DelAgua Health, a social enterprise working with the Government of Rwanda Ministry of Health to implement a water treatment and improved cookstove program for 600,000 households. This program evolved from the first-ever United Nations registered carbon credit for water treatment program, established in Rwanda by Manna Energy. Manna also developed, under contract to Vestergaard Frandsen, the largest water treatment intervention conducted by a private organization – a four million person program operating in Kenya and funded by carbon credits.

Prior to joining PSU, Evan worked as a civil servant at the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for six years. At NASA, Evan was a principal investigator and project manager in the Life Support and Habitability Systems Branch working on concepts for sustainable Moon and Mars spacecraft. These included microgravity fluid management technologies and water recovery systems spanning the range of technology readiness from research and concept development through operational spacecraft hardware flying on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

Staff Engineers

Zdenek Zumr earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Electrical Engineering from Portland State University. He is a full time engineer in the SweetLab, focusing on the custom design and production of sensors for developing world applications. Zdenek was born in the Czech Republic and raised in Switzerland where he acquired professional FEAM certification in electronics. He worked as a contract technician and project manager on international projects for Swiss companies in Europe, South America and the Middle East. During a ten year sabbatical from technology he earned a Masters Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, practiced and taught Chinese Medicine and published an instructional workbook for students.


Zak White earned his BSCE from Portland State in 2012. He is a full time staff engineer in the SweetLab, working on the testing and deployment of technologies in developing countries. 



Matt Stevenson is a PhD student in  Environmental Engineering at Portland State, working through the SweetLab. Matt is also the technical lead for DelAuga Health's service platforms offered in India. He has experience throughout Africa consulting for various water provision and treatment businesses, running a public health trial in India with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as managing partnerships for Cascade Design’s Emerging Markets group in Seattle. Matt holds a BA in Chemistry from Amherst College and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from MIT. 

Brentley Wiles is a post-bacc student in Mechanical Engineering at Portland State University, with a previous degree in Biology from the College of Charleston. His experience in engineering ranges from research with microgravity fluid mechanics at the Dryden Drop Tower lab, to ground station control of experiments aboard the International Space Station, to assisting with sensor testing and production at the SWEETlab. This summer, Brentley will be starting an engineering internship at Planet Labs, a space technology firm in San Francisco.


Faduma Ali received her bachelor's degree in Public Health from Portland State in 2012. She is working with Innovations for Poverty Action and the SweetLab to monitor the use of handwashing stations in Kakamega, Kenya. Faduma was profiled in the Portland State Vanguard.