In Memoriam: Retired Professor Edward S. K. Chian

Friday, 29 March 2024

Professor Edward S. K. Chian, a retired professor of environmental engineering in the Georgia Tech School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, passed away on March 15 in Atlanta.

Chian was a world-renowned researcher, teacher, advisor and expert in chemical characterization, bio- and physiochemical treatment and disposal processes, and fate and effect of existing and emerging contaminants in air, land, and water systems.

He was pursued and hired by Georgia Tech as a research leader and professor in civil and environmental engineering in 1978. He stayed at Georgia Tech until retiring in 2000. Born in Shanghai China in 1935, Chian's parents fled war-torn China and found refuge in Taiwan in 1949.

A portrait of Edward Chian

There, he graduated from the Taipei Institute of Technology in 1955 and was trained in the Republic of China Military Academy. In 1957, he was awarded a full scholarship to pursue a master's degree in chemical engineering at Oklahoma State University.  At OSU, he met his wife, Lucia T.Y. Chien, whom he married in 1961.   

Chian then pursued advanced doctoral studies and research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving his Doctorate of Science in biochemical engineering in 1967. Upon graduation, he worked for Kimberly Clark in New Jersey and then in 1972 joined the civil engineering faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a professor of environmental engineering, he initiated an expansive research program focused on priority pollutants and associated biological and physiochemical reclamation processes.

At Georgia Tech, Chian continued to expand his research agenda and thrived as an undergraduate professor of civil engineering and a graduate professor of environmental engineering. He taught  courses in physical principles of environmental engineering and hazardous wastewater remediation. During his tenure, he mentored dozens of PhD students, guiding them through coursework, research, and to successfully earn their doctorate degrees. Chian also served as a subject matter expert with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, advising best practices in global clean water. Through this work, he traveled throughout Africa, Australia, Europe, and Asia. He was an early developer of the reverse osmosis drinking water membrane. Following retirement from Georgia Tech in 2000, Chian taught one final sabbatical year at Robert Black College in Hong Kong.