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2008 Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research: Makram Suidan

“Makram is at the forefront of research in environmental engineering and science,” wrote one supporter from the top-ranked engineering college in the country.

Date: 5/9/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Ventre, photojournalist
Professor Makram Suidan has been selected by the Fellows of the Graduate School to receive the 2008 Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research.

He was nominated for his body of research work, his international peer recognition, his fundamental contributions to knowledge of the field of environmental engineering and his success in securing external research funding for the University of Cincinnati.

“For 17 consecutive years, Makram Suidan has remained one of the most highly funded and frequently cited researchers at UC,” wrote Steven Buchberger, interim Civil and Environmental Engineering Department head in his letter of nomination.

Suidan is the PI for the UC subcontract under a Pegasus Technical Services contract to the USEPA.
Suidan is the PI for the UC subcontract under a Pegasus Technical Services contract to the USEPA.

Suidan is the principal investigator for the University of Cincinnati subcontract under a Pegasus Technical Services contract to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a $37.2 million grant. As part of its share of the five-year project, UC will perform bench scale, pilot scale and field-type demonstration studies related to the treatment of drinking water, wetlands, watersheds and the fate of trace organic compounds in the environment.

Suidan is also the inaugural Herman Schneider Professor of Environmental Engineering in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering. In 1975 he received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Suidan began his career at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was invited to return to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he remained from 1980 until 1990 rising to the rank of full professor in 1985. In 1990, he came to the University of Cincinnati to serve as the director of the Environmental Engineering and Science Program from 1990 to 1994 and again from 2002 to 2004. In between, he was head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1995 to 1998. Suidan is one of the most highly funded researchers in the entire university.

If you want to read his nomination file, you’d better start working out first. The letters supporting his nomination came from esteemed colleagues in academia, government and business. They represented peers as well as former protégés. And there are many, for one of the things that Suidan clearly enjoys besides his research is his teaching.

“I enjoy teaching every bit as much as I enjoy my research,” he says. “And the quality of the students we’re getting is improving.” Suidan is very proud of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in the College of Engineering. He should be — he helped build it.

“From the beginning of his association with UC, Dr. Suidan has been the kingpin in the development of a strong Environmental Engineering Division by encouraging the acceptance of academically strong graduate students,” wrote Engineering Associate Dean Anant Kukreti in his letter supporting Suidan’s nomination. “Makram has more than 16 former students teaching at universities in the U.S. and around the world.”

Suidan works in lab with Dave Bailey, an undergraduate in mechanical engineering, and Pablo Campo, a PhD student in environmental engineering.
Suidan works in lab with Dave Bailey, an undergraduate in mechanical engineering, and Pablo Campo, a PhD student in environmental engineering.

Suidan’s heavily interwoven teaching and research interests are in graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of water and wastewater treatment and the physical-chemical fundamentals of environmental engineering and science.

“I am teaching the students how to do the work through my research,” he says. “In the United States, every major city already has water and wastewater treatment plants. The students will not hear ‘Come and design a plant,’ but ‘Come and fix the plant.’”

H. David Stensel, the Nielsen Professor and chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Washington, wrote that Suidan had established his reputation for providing good science and engineering fundamentals for problems found in the environment that pose threats to human health.

Suidan believes you can
Suidan believes you can't separate teaching from research.

“These include many hazardous substances, such as fuel additives, solvents and petroleum products. His research work has included an understanding of the physical, chemical and biological mechanisms related to the fate and transport of these compounds, and then he has in many cases, provided novel solutions and fundamental principles that lead to environmental and human health protection,” wrote Stensel. “The quality of these efforts [is] Herculean, and readily measured by the level of research publications, research awards for both himself and his students, and invited talks. Other engineers and researchers know that a Dr. Makram Suidan talk or paper must not be missed, as there will surely be some useful advancement of science and technology.”

Professor Richard Luthy, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford (currently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as having the No. 1 environmental engineering program in the country and the No. 2 college of engineering), whole-heartedly supports Suidan’s nomination and offers, “Makram’s dedication to excellence in research and in education has elevated the environmental engineering program at the University [of Cincinnati] to national distinction.”

Luthy also wrote, “In recent years, Makram has chosen to examine the treatment and fate of so-called emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting chemicals. This is very challenging work, not the least of which is the detection of hormonally active compounds at very low concentrations. In this and other work Makram is at the forefront of research in environmental engineering and science.”

Suidan says that with the prevalence of existing U.S. plants, today
Suidan says that with the prevalence of existing U.S. plants, today's students will be working with fixing aging plants, not designing new ones.

“One thing that impressed me in all of his work was Makram’s rigor and ability to transcend coupled differential equations and present useful findings in forms that practicing engineers could adopt,” Luthy further wrote from Stanford. “He always makes extra effort to explain his results so that the engineering aspects are clear and understandable. This enhances the impact and recognition of his research.”

“Makram is eminently qualified for this award because of the exceptional impact of this research on the fields of hazardous waste treatment and water quality; the international recognition he has received from his peers; and his tireless efforts to promote world-class research and excellence in education at the University of Cincinnati,” wrote Dan Oerther, of UC’s own Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“In my opinion Dr. Suidan is the most highly regarded member of our academic and research community in environmental engineering and science,” the University of Washington’s Stensel wrote. “At present, Dr. Suidan sits alone at the top, and it is not obvious who will join him in this upper echelon of talent, productivity and advancement of both science and engineering.”