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Embodying the Mission: Taking Research to the Next Level

By Jeremy Henderson

Dongye Zhao, the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council Professor of civil and environmental engineering, received the Creative Research and Scholarship Award at Auburn University’s 2021 Faculty Awards. The award recognizes the research achievements and contributions of Auburn University faculty. 

In his 20 years at Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Zhao has led, co-led or participated in more than 40 projects with external funding totaling nearly $9 million. He also has served as a major professor for more than 25 doctoral students and more than 25 Master of Science students, landed editorships for two major international journals — “Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering” and “Water Environment Research” — and delivered 124 invited seminars and keynote presentations across the globe. 

In addition to putting him among the top 1% of the world’s highly cited researchers, according to Clarivate and the Stanford List of World’s Top Scientists, Zhao’s innovative work in the field of environmental remediation has earned him seven U.S. patents, including several for nanotechnologies developed for the treatment and decontamination of soil and groundwater. He was the first to develop polysaccharide-stabilized nanoparticles for in situ degradation of chlorinated solvents in soil and groundwater, as well as the first to conceptualize in-situ immobilization of metals/metalloids/radionuclides in soil and groundwater using stabilized nanoparticles. 

“Don is not an average professor,” said Andy Nowak, the Elton and Lois G. Huff Eminent Scholar Chair for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “He’s a very intelligent individual, but the reason he is so productive is because he’s such a hard worker.”