Student working at eco-machine

Environmental Engineering Research

Environmental Engineering focuses on the improvement of environmental quality through design, including the treatment of surface water, groundwater, wastewater, soil, and air; the management of wetlands and watersheds; the treatment and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes; the production of renewable energy; and the design of “green” products. The Penn State Environmental Engineering (Env E) program has specific strengths in biological processes for energy production, bioremediation of hazardous contaminants, physical/chemical processes for contaminant removal, conventional water and wastewater treatment, green product design, and environmental law.

The EnvE research program is supported by projects of over $20 million dollars funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, and many other federal, state, and local agencies, as well as by various industries.  The majority of this research is conducted in the Kappe Environmental Engineering Laboratories housed within the Sackett Building on the Penn State, University Park campus.

Environmental Engineering Research by topic:


Desalination and Membrane Technologies 

Environmental Biotechnology

Environmental Hydro biogeochemistry

Green Engineering

Physical-Chemical Treatment


Salinity Gradient Energy

Water treatment

Research Funding in Environmental Engineering

There is a vigorous research program in Environmental Engineering (EnvE) here at Penn State. The total funding for research projects in the EnvE group was $5.8 million as of September 1, 2017. The project titles, principle investigators, and other information on these research contracts and grants is listed below.


Hybrid microbial fuel cell-biofiltration system for energy neutral wastewater treatment. (PI: Logan). U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center, June 15, 2016 – June 14, 2019. $571,821

Improving RO desalination and new desalination approaches. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (PI: Logan). July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018. $250,000.

Configurations and materials to improve hydrogen gas production in microbial electrolysis cells. (PI: Logan). National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. December 11, 2015 – November 31, 2018. $450,000.

Resource Recovery from Wastewater with Bioelectrochemical Systems (PI: Ian Head, University of Newcastle). Resource Recovery from Waste Programme, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK.

Development of an integrated fixed film activated sludge (IFAS) system for the removal of emerging contaminants at the Penn State wastewater treatment plant.  (PI: Brennan), Penn State Wastewater Management Committee, Office of the Physical Plant, July 2015 – June 2018, $110,000.

Feeding 11 billion: the biosynthesis of high quality protein from wastewater.  (PI: Brennan; Co-PI: Lambert)  Penn State Sustainability Seed Grant Program, April 2017 – July 2018, $25,000.

Motivating inquiry, creativity, and innovation through incentive-based design projects in civil and environmental engineering.  (PI: Brennan)  The Leonhard Center for Enhancement of Engineering Education, Engineering Education Innovation Academy, May 2017 – June 2018, $5,000.

Gauging U.S. consumer acceptance of wastewater derived protein: a preliminary survey.  (PI: Connolly-Ahern; Co-PIs: Ahern; Brennan)  Penn State College of Communications, Summer Faculty Research Program, May 2017 – August 2017, $4,500.

Nitrite Ammonification in Manures and Soils under Adaptive Management for Climate Change. (PI: Bruns, Co-PIs: Regan, Karsten). USDA AFRI, April 2016 – March 2019, $540,000.

Conference on Phosphorus Fate, Transport, and Management in Agro-Ecosystems. (PI: Regan) U.S. Department of Agriculture, January 2017 – December 2017, $50,000.

Sloan Scholarship Program, University Center for Exemplary Mentoring, 2000 to 2019, for selected underrepresented PhD candidates in 7 Colleges at the University Park campus of Penn State. (PI: Cannon, Preston Administrative PI) June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2019 (supplement). $900,000.  

Characterization of activated carbons for removing perfluoroalkyls from water (PI: Cannon) Evoqua Water Technologies LLC November 15, 2017 to December 31, 2018. $14,000.

SusChem: Manganese oxide supercapacitor charging/discharging mechanisms to capture energy using capacitive mixing (CapMix). (PI: Gorski; Co-PI: Logan) National Science Foundation: CBET Environmental Engineering. September 1, 2016 – August 31, 2019. $330,000.

Collaborative Research: Recrystallization of Stable Iron Oxides in Reducing Environments (PI: Gorski). National Science Foundation, Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry Program. August 1, 2015 – December 31, 2017. $199,841.

Capability Extension - Mossbauer Spectroscopy. (PI: Gorski) Sandia National Laboratories. December 23, 2016 – December 31, 2017. $5,142.

Optimizing the conversion of salinity gradient energy into electrical power through computational simulations. (PI: Gorski). Penn State University Internal Seed Grant Program. March 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017. $25,000.

Hydroacoustic Cavitation for Reclaiming Clay and Sand from Hydrofracturing Fluids and Solids National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research-Technology Translation AIR-TT (PI: Warner, co-PI Cannon, Klima, Wunz) $200,000 September 15, 2016 - February 28, 2018.

Batch Method to Measure TDS Generation Potential from Coal Refuse (PI: Burgos, W., co-PI: Warner, Cravotta) US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Applied Science Program. 10/1/2016 - 7/30/2018 $267,421

Removing Radium from Hydrofracturing Fluids with Tailored Clays. Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) Seed grant (PI: Warner, Co PI:Cannon, Flaska, Johnsen, Komarneni) 4/15/2017 - 7/31/2018 $25,000

Riparian bird feathers as indicators of shale-gas development. Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (PSIEE) Seed grant (PI: Brittingham, Co PI:Warner, Fantle) 4/15/2017 - 7/31/2018 $25,000

Understanding Ecohydrological Controls of Biogeochemical Reactions and Fluxes at the Watershed Scale”, DOE Subsurface Biogeochemistry Research (SBR). (PI: Li, co-PI: Kaye, Shi), September 2016 – August 2018, $180,000

Collaborative Research: Combining complex systems tools, process-based modelling and experiments to bridge scales in low temperature geochemistry. National Science Foundation. (PI: L. Li), January 1, 2018 – December 2020, $173,352

Redefining Reactive Surface Area: Understanding Reactive Interfaces in Heterogeneous Porous Media”, National Science Foundation (NSF) (PI: Li), July 2015 – June 2018, $193,050

Using the Susquehanna - Shale Hills CZO to Project from the Geological Past to the Anthropocene Future.” National Science Foundation (NSF) (PI: Brantley, co-PIs: Davis, Eissenstat, Kaye, Li, Lin, Russo). November 2013 – October 2018, 5,000,000 (Approximately $700,000 to Li)

Metal-Microbe-Mineral interactions and biomineralization mechanisms in anaerobic acidophiles: Geochemical, microbiological and biotechnological implications. (PI: Sanchez-Espana; co-PI: Burgos), Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2020.  $110,000.

Impact of Spreading Oil & Gas Wastewater as Road Treatments on Water Quality Source of Support. (PI: Burgos), United States Geological Survey 104B Program, March 1, 2017 – February 28, 2018. $63,297.

Biogenic Manganese Oxides for the Removal of Emerging Contaminants from Wastewater. (PI: Burgos), Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, April 15, 2017 – June 30, 2018. $25,000.

Impact of Oil & Gas Wastewater Disposal on Lake and River Sediments. (PI: Burgos; co-PI: Warner), National Science Foundation, CBET – Environmental Engineering, (pending) September 1, 2017 – August 31, 2020. $330,000.


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The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084