Environmental Engineering

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Find out what kind of courses you can take and learn more about the expertise of our faculty:

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Our Environmental Engineering program provides comprehensive educational and research opportunities in air, land, and water science and engineering. Our faculty members have a broad range of experience and expertise. They work in top-notch research facilities. They collaborate extensively with other engineering and science faculty across campus.

That means we attract the highest-caliber students from a variety of engineering and science backgrounds. And we design your master’s or Ph.D. program specifically for your professional goals.

Our program is a key component in campus-wide initiatives on biological engineering, bioscience and biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science and technology, sustainable technology and development, environmental science and technology, and energy systems.

Key Research Areas:

  • Air pollution: emissions, formation, transport, and deposition of aerosols
  • Chemical and environmental multiphase transport processes
  • Environmental and analytical chemistry
  • Environmental biotechnology for bioremediation of contaminated soil, sediments and waters
  • Hazardous substances in sediments, soils, waters and residues
  • Nanotechnology in the environment
  • Physical, chemical and biological processes influencing subsurface fate and transport of contaminants
  • Physicochemical processes for water and wastewater treatment
  • Sustainable technology and development


Bioaerosols and urban sanitation Air pollution and asthma morbidity: Data integration methods Ferrates to mitigate pharmaceuticals in urine
The Maputo sanitation trial Expanding the Microbial Genome Atlas Modeling complex urban systems
Peroxy acids for water treatment Energy use and regional economic resilience Role of microbial biodiversity in controlling soil N2O emissions
Sustainable Steel Manufacturing Using Domestic Wastewater for Food Production SAP Beads to extend shelf life of biological samples



Mustafa M. Aral
Professor Emeritus
Joe Brown
Carlton S. Wilder Assistant Professor
Yongsheng Chen
John Crittenden
Director, Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Hightower Chair...
Maohong Fan
Adjunct Professor
Janet Hatt
Senior Research Scientist/Lab Manager Konstantinidis Group
Yongtao Hu
Senior Research Scientist
Ching-Hua Huang
Professor & Group Coordinator
Jennifer Kaiser
Assistant Professor
Kostas T. Konstantinidis
John H. Koon
Professor of the Practice
Lekia Mauesby
Administrative Professional Sr.
James A. Mulholland
Associate Chair for Graduate Programs and Research Innovation &...
M. Talat Odman
Principal Research Engineer
Spyros G. Pavlostathis
Armistead G. Russell
Howard T. Tellepsen Chair & Regents Professor
F. Michael Saunders
Professor Emeritus
Jim C. Spain
Professor Emeritus
Marc Stieglitz
Associate Professor
Costas Tsouris
Ambarish Vaidyanathan
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Xing Xie
Carlton S. Wilder Assistant Professor
Sotira Yiacoumi
Guangxuan Zhu
Senior Research Scientist


Capture of Organic Iodides from Vessel Off-Gas Streams
Principal Investigator: Sotira Yiacoumi
Sponsor: Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Many cities, especially in developing countries, have poor sanitation infrastructure characterized by a number of interconnected problems, including uncontained wastewater flows, lack of functional sewerage networks, open sewers, poor drainage, highly contaminated urban waterways, inadequate treatment of wastewater, and unsafe disposal of biosolids. Residents of cities with poor sanitation are exposed to a range of pathogens via a number of pathways, contributing to a high burden of disease. One pathway that has not yet been adequately characterized in these settings is the aeromicrobiological (AMB) pathway: the transport of pathogens in aerosols where uncontained fecal waste exists in close proximity to population centers. In this project, the PI aims to advance our understanding of the role bioaerosols play in transmission of pathogens in these environments. Findings will be applicable to many settings in the U.S. and other developed countries as well; these settings include areas of intensive animal agriculture, wastewater infrastructure, and biosolids management. Field studies will be integrated with innovative, hands-on, undergraduate engineering courses focused on environmental problems affecting global public health in underserved communities.
Principal Investigator: Joe Brown
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Phosphorus is an element that, along with nitrogen and potassium, has enabled large increases in food production in the U.S. and globally. Phosphorus is mined from natural deposits, but these deposits are diminishing. Contemporary reports indicate that there is a pending phosphorus crisis, as global supplies dwindle and demand for food increases. Currently, the utilization of phosphorus for fertilizer is energy intensive and expensive. Phosphorus supply is limited, and its recovery from food and other wastes and water bodies is virtually nonexistent. Traditionally, agricultural production has been optimized with little or no consideration of the losses of phosphorus beyond its use in producing crops. This practice leads to large energy needs for fertilizer production and for treatment of phosphorus waste in agricultural runoff, and food and animal wastes. The other side to this problem is that some phosphorus applied to agricultural fields is lost to lakes and rivers causing considerable environmental damage. These phosphorus issues significantly influence our food, energy, and water systems. Two key approaches to achieve sustainable phosphorus management are agriculture fertilization systems that more efficiently use phosphorous for plant growth and systems that recover phosphorus from food and animal wastes and from biowastes in contaminated water. Unfortunately, we do not have suitable recovery systems due to technological limitations and economic and infrastructure constraints. This project aims to develop an integrated and sustainable management structure that can simultaneously address the major technical challenges in biowaste management and agriculture fertilization systems. This management structure will enable recovery of phosphorous, energy, and water, thus increasing resource use efficiency and providing a new source of phosphorus for agricultural food production. 
Principal Investigator: Spyros Pavlostathis
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Accurate and reliable exposure estimates are crucial to the success of any environmental health study. The overarching goal of this project is to develop and apply statistical methods to improve exposure assessment and exposure uncertainty quantification for spatio-temporal environmental pollution fields. This is accomplished by statistically integrating observations with additional data sources, including state-of-the-art computer model simulations and satellite imagery. We will develop methods motivated by three current research priorities in air pollution epidemiology: a) identifying susceptible sub-populations most at risk to air pollution exposures; (b) quantifying health impacts of air pollution under a changing climate; and (c) understanding sources of air pollution to develop control strategies. In Aim 1, we will develop multi-resolutional and multivariate data integration methods for ambient air pollution concentrations. We will supplement sparse observations from monitoring networks with simulations from a chemical transport model and multiple satellite retrieval parameters. The proposed methods will exploit the between-pollutant dependence and the spatio-temporal autocorrelation within each pollutant for better predictions. In Aim 2, we will develop multivariate bias-correction methods for climate model simulations using historical observations. The goal is to perform joint bias-correction across multiple variables such that the observed dependence is retained in future projections. In Aim 3, we will develop ensemble source apportionment methods for fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5). The methods will estimate emission source contributions by combining results from several algorithms that incorporate different types of external information and assumptions. We will further utilize computer model simulations to spatially interpolate source information to locations without monitors. Methods developed from Aims 1, 2, and 3 will be used to create national databases of (1) daily concentration estimates for criteria pollutants and major constituents of PM2.5, (2) projections of ozone levels due to climate change under different future emission scenarios, and (3) daily estimates of contributions from multiple PM2.5 sources, including coal combustion, on-road diesel and gasoline combustion, biomass burning, and resuspended soil/dust. We will also provide uncertainty estimates, detailed documentation, and R packages to ensure these methods and estimates can be used in other environmental health studies. In Aim 4, we will acquire individual-level emergency department (ED) visit data from 25 cities during the period 2005-2014. The data integration products will be used to estimate short-term associations between asthma ED visits and multiple air pollutants and pollutant sources. The proposed health study fills a major gap by considering both elderly and non-elderly susceptible populations to support the development of targeted, effective risk reduction and preven- tion activities. While air pollution serves as the motivating application in this project, the methods proposed are highly applicable to other environmental exposures.
Principal Investigators: James Mulholland and Armistead "Ted" Russell
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health
Early-Time Signatures of a Nuclear Detonation in Urban Areas
Principal Investigator: Sotira Yiacoumi
Sponsor: Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Fate and Effect of Peracetic Acid Solutions in Poultry Processing Wastewater Treatment Systems
Principal Investigator: Spyros Pavlostathis
Sponsor: U.S. Poultry Foundation
Human urine accounts for less than 1 percent of domestic wastewater by volume yet urine contributes a disproportionate mass load of nutrients and pharmaceuticals to wastewater. While intensifying nutrient recovery in diverted urine has been proposed as a more sustainable alternative to conventional wastewater management, eliminating pharmaceutical micropollutants from the urine will also be highly beneficial. This project will develop a ferrate-based advanced oxidation technology (AOT) that is particularly promising for treating pharmaceuticals and their metabolites in the challenging urine matrices. Effective destruction of pharmaceuticals in urine can minimize energy-intensive treatment required at centralized wastewater facilities to remove these micropollutants, and reduce their potential harm to receiving waters and drinking water sources. This project will be led by Prof. Ching-Hua Huang at Georgia Tech and in collaboration with Profs. Virender Sharma and Leslie Cizmas at Texas A&M to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms of ferrate-based AOT and optimize the treatment efficiency in pollutant and toxicity reduction.
Principal Investigator: Ching-Hua Huang
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Access to safe sanitation in low-income, informal settlements of Sub-Saharan Africa has not significantly improved since 1990. The combination of a high fecal-related disease burden and inadequate infrastructure suggests that investment in expanding sanitation access in densely populated urban slums can yield important public health gains. No rigorous, controlled intervention studies have evaluated the health effects of decentralized (non-sewerage) sanitation in an informal urban setting, despite the role that such technologies will likely play in scaling up access. We are conducting a controlled, before-and-after trial to estimate the health impacts of an urban sanitation intervention in informal neighborhoods of Maputo, Mozambique, including an assessment of whether exposures and health outcomes vary by localized population density. The intervention consists of private pour-flush latrines (to septic tank) shared by multiple households in compounds or household clusters. We are measuring objective health outcomes in approximately 760 children (380 children with household access to interventions, 380 matched controls using existing shared private latrines in poor sanitary conditions), at three time points: immediately before the intervention and at follow-up after 12 and 24 months. The primary outcome is combined prevalence of selected enteric infections among children under 5 years of age. Secondary outcome measures include soil-transmitted helminth (STH) reinfection in children following baseline deworming and prevalence of reported diarrheal disease. Further, we are using exposure assessment, fecal source tracking, and microbial transmission modelling to examine whether and how routes of exposure for diarrheagenic pathogens and STHs change following introduction of effective sanitation.
Principal Investigator: Joe Brown
Sponsors: U.S. Agency for International Development; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The diversity of prokaryotic microbes on the planet is very large, estimated at over a billion species of bacteria, and most of it remains undiscovered. As genome sequencing can help characterizing this diversity and has recently become routine, most microbial scientists have been overwhelmed by the amount of available data. For many researchers, a complete and thorough analysis of the available genome data is not necessary. Instead, these users would be better served with straightforward methods that can identify their unknown DNA/RNA sequence(s), and be able to discriminate between well understood taxa and those that are potentially novel. Tools that can help direct researchers to the most "interesting" genomes and genes among thousands of candidates will be important. Furthermore, metagenomics, which is the sequencing of environmental DNA, allows the genetic characterization of the majority of these prokaryotes that have resisted cultivation in the laboratory. However, current tools to analyze metagenomic data are clearly lagging behind the development of sequencing technologies (and data), and are typically limited to genome assembly and gene annotation. This is a major limitation for better understanding, studying and communicating about the biodiversity of uncultivated microorganisms that run the life-sustaining biogeochemical cycles on the planet, form critical associations with their plant and animal hosts, or produce products of biotechnological value. Therefore, new approaches to make the emerging genomic and metagenomic sequence information readily available to the non-expert user are timely and essential in order to advance our understanding of the diversity and function of microbial communities across the fields of ecology, systematics, evolution, engineering, agriculture and medicine.
Principal Investigator: Kostas Konstantinidis
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
This three year project is designed to develop the theory that infrastructure systems, with their many interdependencies and complex adaptations, have many similarities to ecological systems.  The insights that arise from this grant will be useful in the future development of tools and methods used in the design and evaluation of urban infrastructure systems and their resilience under stresses like climate change, urban growth patterns, and extreme weather events.  The investigators also expect that perspective will be gained by examining the relative advantages of ecological design versus engineering approaches in the design of complex systems such as urban infrastructure.
Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Peroxy acids (POAs), such as peracetic acid and performic acid, are emerging disinfectants/oxidants to replace chlorine in wastewater and storm water treatment. Compared to chlorine, the major benefits of POAs are their high effectiveness in disinfection and minimum formation of harmful byproducts. Furthermore, activated POAs by UV irradiation or catalysts are novel advanced oxidation processes that can be useful for degrading recalcitrant organic micropollutants in water. However, even with increased industrial usage of POAs, fundamental research of POAs trails behind their applications. This research project is led by Prof. Ching-Hua Huang to investigate the fundamental reaction kinetics and mechanisms of POAs and activated POAs for their applications in water treatment. The goal is to create the knowledge base that will be useful for improvement and optimization of the POA and UV/POA technology.
Principal Investigator: Ching-Hua Huang
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Current economic models that aim to understand how energy use and efficiency interact within a regional economy are geared towards a broad scale. They also don't account well for an unintended consequence that crops up when energy efficiency is in play, known as the "rebound effect." For example, energy use for lighting, as a percentage of total energy use, tends to increase as lighting technology becomes more efficient. This project will develop a model that introduces adjustments to comprehensively evaluate the economic impact of the rebound effect, as well as tailoring the model to a more regional scale. Understanding energy use and efficiency at a smaller scale will reveal how both energy efficiency and supply shocks effect a region's economic and energy resilience.
Co-Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Natural microbial communities, especially soil microbiomes, are highly diverse and encompass hundreds, if not thousands, of distinct bacterial and archaeal species, each of which encodes a couple hundred species-specific genes together with distinct alleles of shared genes. The basis for this astonishing microbial biodiversity and its relevance for ecosystem function remain poorly understood. Predicting ecosystem function from the resident gene/genome sequence diversity remains a particularly challenging issue for soil microbiology and soil management. Advancing these issues is important for better modeling ecosystem processes and the biogeochemical contributions of microbial species. To provide new insights into these topics, a key soil ecosystem process will be studied: nitrous oxide (N2O) reduction to dinitrogen (N2). N2O emissions from both managed and natural lands represent a loss of a key nutrient (nitrogen) for soil productivity, and contribute to climate change and stratospheric ozone destruction. A great diversity of bacterial species, each encoding distinct alleles of the N2O reductase gene (nosZ; N2O → N2), are considered keystone populations controlling N2O reduction to environmentally benign N2. The biotic and abiotic controls over N2O production and reduction activity, which ultimately determine N2O fluxes, are poorly understood, limiting management practices that would reduce fixed nitrogen loss from soils and mitigate negative impacts associated with atmospheric N2O.
Principal Investigator: Kostas Konstantinidis
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
This project will focus on developing innovative systems-based solutions for increasing the environmental sustainability of the Chinese steel industry.  China is by far the largest producer of crude steel, producing more than half of the global supply.  Such enormous production levels are driven by both domestic and foreign demand.  Steel production has significant environmental impacts, accounting for 6.7% of the total world CO2 emissions, and considerable use of, and toxic discharge to fresh water sources.  In comparison, due to efficiency measures undertaken in the past 3 decades, U.S. metal production is two thirds less energy intensive compared to that of Chinese industries.  The team will have cutting-edge access to the Chinese steel industry as well as eco-industrial parks, in which China is leading the world.  The team expects that many unique insights will be gained.
Principal Investigator: John Crittenden
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
The project goal is to couple the nutrient and water resources in domestic wastewater to urban controlled environment agriculture systems (DWW-CEAs). Supporting objectives include 1) confirming that produce growth rates and quality don't diminish compared to control experiments where synthetic hydroponic fertilizers are used, 2) confirming that chemical contaminants don't accumulate in the produce, 3) confirming that the produce is pathogen free, 4) reducing DWW treatment costs by using the latest in energy-positive treatment technology, 5) developing a sustainable Food, Energy and Water (FEW) system using modelling approaches to minimize investments in DWW-CEA systems while maximizing the utility of the systems, 6) providing an education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics in high-tech wastewater treatment and CEA technologies, 7) developing a veteran workforce to help operate DWW-CEAs, and 8) guiding local policy to provide sustainable and long-lasting solutions to conserve our precious nutrient and water resources. To accomplish the project goal, a pilot-scale hydroponic system will be constructed and operated using DWW mined from the sewer system on the Georgia Tech campus. The DWW will be treated to remove contaminants and pathogens before being used to irrigate hydroponic systems to assure food and farm worker safety. Multiple fruit and vegetable varieties will be grown year-round. Water quality and chemical and microorganism contamination will be measured continously. The project will show that DWW-CEAs are socially, environmentally and financially sustainable, easily replicable in urban areas and will provide a long-lasting solution to conserve our precious water resources for food production.
Principal Investigator: Yongshen Chen
Sponsor: U.S. Department of Agriculture
This project will test whether super-absorbent polymers in sample tubes can improve the accuracy of diagnostics by absorbing molecules like DNA and viruses from liquid samples such as blood, and protecting them during transport to the laboratory. Normally, blood and urine samples degrade over time, particularly when they are exposed to heat or cold. This makes the subsequent diagnostic result unreliable. They propose that low-cost, super-absorbent polymers can preserve diagnostic target molecules by separating them from contaminating cells and bacteria, which can be poured away from sample tubes, and providing a pH buffer and preservatives to extend their shelf-life. They will optimize synthesis of the beads and test their ability to preserve different analytical targets including a human virus surrogate and an antibody against HIV.
Principal Investigator: Xing Xie
Sponsor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation