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Kartik Chandran      

Environmental Engineer & Professor at Columbia University

Kartik Chandran is a global leader in sustainable wastewater treatment and engineered resource recovery and an esteemed professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University. Chandran’s work is enabled through understanding and harnessing the biochemical potential and metabolism of microbial communities and developing appropriate technologies towards addressing global environmental and societal needs.

His fundamental work has focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms and pathways of the microbial nitrogen cycle and its links to the global carbon, water and energy cycles. His applied work ranges from large-scale centralized wastewater treatment systems to community scale decentralized resource recovery systems and technologies across the globe. Applications of his work have ranged from energy and resource-efficient treatment of nitrogen-containing wastewater streams to novel models for resource recovery.

The key insight of Chandran’s research and applications thereof is that certain combinations of mixed microbial communities, similar to those that occur naturally, can be used to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of wastewater and to extract useful products. This approach also involves reduced chemical and energy inputs relative to traditional treatments and has the added benefit of preventing algal blooms downstream by maximizing nitrogen removal. More recently, using ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, Chandran has enabled the transformation of bio-generated methane gas into methanol, a chemical that is both easily transported and widely useful in industry (including in the wastewater industry).

Chandran imaginatively tailors his solutions to be locally appropriate. In rural Ghana, in conjunction with his Engineers without Borders students, he has re-engineered source-separation toilets to both provide sanitation and recover nutrients for use in agriculture. In Kumasi, Ghana, he has tested the large-scale conversion of sludge into biofuel while also providing new training opportunities for local engineers and managers. Through his groundbreaking research and its practical applications, Chandran is demonstrating the hidden value of wastewater, conserving vital resources, and protecting public health. His innovative work on transforming wastewater from a troublesome pollutant to a valuable resource earned him the MacArthur Fellowship in 2015. He has also received several other awards and honors, including the WERF Paul Busch Award and the NSF CAREER Award, and has published numerous works in the field of environmental engineering.

Chandran received his B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (formerly the University of Roorkee) in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1999. He joined Columbia University in 2005 as an assistant professor of Environmental Engineering. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2015 and was named a Fellow of the Water Environment Federation in 2013.

Speech Topics

focused on clean water, energy, resource recovery and sustainability issues surrounding these sectors

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