Water is a recurring theme in Sara Huber’s life. Growing up, she was surrounded by it; she’s always lived near the ocean and her childhood “summer home” was a 52-foot trawler that her family cruised around Catalina and Baja.

“I lived on the water, where conservation is a way of life,” Huber says.

At UCI, Huber practically majored in water. On June 18, she received her bachelor’s in civil engineering, with a specialty in water resources, and she was the student speaker for The Henry Samueli School of Engineering’s commencement.

Her late father, Gene, who died in July, got Huber excited about water. He served on several water boards and was fascinated by this critical resource, from the politics swirling around it to the engineering feats that brought it rushing through the tap. Huber resisted his gentle prodding to study water until her senior year in high school, when she did a project on the Colorado River.

“I was intrigued. It’s a fight for water in Southern California,” she says. “I decided to get involved in the water industry.”

During her career at UCI, she excelled in her studies; she’s a Phi Beta Kappa honor society member, Regents’ Scholar, Fulbright finalist, 2005-06 Civil and Environmental Engineer of the Year, and recipient of several prestigious scholarships. She’s also co-president of Chi Epsilon, the National Civil Engineering Honors Society at UCI, and a member of the Campuswide Honors Program and UCI chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

“Sara is quietly determined about her ideas. She’s destined to become a leader in the environmental field,” says Jan Scherfig, research professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of UCI’s Urban Water Research Center. Scherfig advised Huber on her honors thesis and research, which examines caffeine as a tracer of raw sewage in the environment.

“Her work should have significant impact on how sewer defects are managed,” he says.

Huber will spend next year in Scotland getting her master’s in water law and policy at the University of Dundee’s Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy. She then may return to UCI to pursue a doctorate in environmental engineering.

How would her father have reacted if he could have been there on commencement day to see his daughter speak to her fellow graduates?

“He would have been proud,” Huber says.