Kartik Chandran is a global leader in sustainable wastewater treatment and engineered resource recovery. Chandran’s work is enabled through understanding and harnessing the biochemical potential and metabolism of microbial communities and developing appropriate technologies towards addressing global environmental and societal needs.
His research interests include engineered systems for resource recovery, microbial N- cycling, sustainable sanitation and wastewater treatment, global climate impacts of engineered wastewater treatment practice, microbial ecology of engineered biological waste and water treatment, reactors, novel molecular based biokinetic estimation tools, elucidation of microbial biochemical degradation pathways , bioprocess modeling and parameter identification for complex biotransformations.
His fundamental work has focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms and pathways of the microbial nitrogen cycle and its links to the global carbon, water and energy cycles. His applied work ranges from large-scale centralized wastewater treatment systems to community scale decentralized resource recovery systems and technologies across the globe.
The key insight of Chandran’s research and applications thereof is that certain combinations of mixed microbial communities, similar to those that occur naturally, can be used to mitigate the harmful environmental impacts of wastewater and to extract useful products. This approach also involves reduced chemical and energy inputs relative to traditional treatments and has the added benefit of preventing algal blooms downstream by maximizing nitrogen removal. More recently, using ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, Chandran has enabled the transformation of bio-generated methane gas into methanol, a chemical that is both easily transported and widely useful in industry (including in the wastewater industry).
Chandran imaginatively tailors his solutions to be locally appropriate. In rural Ghana, in conjunction with his Engineers without Borders students, he has re-engineered source-separation toilets to both provide sanitation and recover nutrients for use in agriculture. In Kumasi, Ghana, he has tested the large-scale conversion of sludge into biofuel while also providing new training opportunities for local engineers and managers. Through his groundbreaking research and its practical applications, Chandran is demonstrating the hidden value of wastewater, conserving vital resources, and protecting public health.
Chandran received his B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (formerly the University of Roorkee) in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1999. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2015 and was named a Fellow of the Water Environment Federation in 2013.