Mark R. Wiesner, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, James L. Meriam Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director at the Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology at Duke University, was elected to membership in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for his contributions to membrane technologies for water treatment and to the understanding of environmental behavior and risk of nanomaterials.
Recipient of the National Water Research Institute’s (NWRI) Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research, Wiesner was among the first U.S. scientists to research the application of low-pressure membranes to water treatment, considered at that time an emerging technology. He initiated research on the factors controlling membrane performance, and proposed using coagulants as a pretreatment to remove organic matter and prevent membrane fouling (the practice of coagulation as a pretreatment has now become a widely accepted standard for water and wastewater treatment with membranes).
Later, he and his students developed cost models that predicted the circumstances in which membrane filtration would be cost-competitive with conventional water treatment technologies – an achievement that was honored with ASCE’s Rudolph Hering Award in 1995.
His efforts to improve the performance of water treatment membranes led him to a new area of research: investigating the uses of technology at the molecular level (nanotechnology). Initially working in the area of applications of nanochemistry to membrane science, he also explored the use of nanomaterials for environmental remediation, as advanced sorbents in water treatment, and as smart disinfectants that inactivate viruses without creating harmful byproducts. His work in developing nanomaterial-based technologies for water treatment led him to consider the possible detrimental effects that these materials might have on human health and the environment, which in effect led him to pioneer the field of environmental implications of nanotechnology.
A graduate of the Coe College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and biology, the University of Iowa with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, and The Johns Hopkins University with a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, Wiesner edited and coauthored Water Treatment Membrane Processes, the very first membrane process book for environmental engineers.