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Work to improve water quality earns professor honored status

Bruce Rittman in lab
June 21, 2013

Significant contributions to research, technology development and education in the field of water-quality engineering and science have earned Bruce Rittmann special recognition from an international technical and educational organization.

Rittmann, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is among the 2013 class of new Water Environment Federation (WEF) Fellows.

The WEF, with about 36,000 members worldwide, works to connect professionals in the water industry and leverage their combined expertise to help advance efforts to provide clean and safe water resources.

Rittmann’s work “is leading to new ways to clean up pollution, treat water and wastewater, capture renewable energy and improve human health," wrote Rao Surampalli in nominating Rittmann for the fellowship. Surampalli is an engineer director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

He points to Rittmann’s research combining microbiology, biochemistry, geochemistry and microbial ecology to restore water purity and generate energy from waste products, and Rittmann’s expertise in developing microbial systems for use in developing renewable resources and alleviating environmental pollution.

Surampalli also notes that Rittmann’s pioneering efforts in development of a membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR), along with other projects in renewable bioenergy, have earned him widespread recognition. The MBfR uses naturally occurring microorganisms to remove contaminants such as perchlorate and tricloroethene from water.

Rittmann, who directs the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, holds five patents related to the MBfR technology and a license for its commercialization.

His WEF Fellow status adds to a long list of noteworthy honors. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004 and holds the title of Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In 2009, he earned the title of Regents’ Professor, the highest recognition for a faculty member at Arizona’s state universities. The Institute for Scientific Information recognizes him as one of the world’s most highly cited researchers.

Rittmann is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Water Association. He is the winner of some of the more prestigious awards in his field, including the Simon W. Freese Environmental Engineering Award, the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, the National Water Research Institute’s Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Water Science and the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.

Rittmann will be formally inducted as a WEF Fellow at the organization’s annual Technical Exhibition and Conference in October in Chicago.

Written by Natalie Pierce