Current position: Professor at Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of Center for Applied Water Research and Innovation (CAWRI) and Environmental Biotechnology & Bioenergy Laboratory (EBBL), Virginia Tech, USA
Research focus: Biological wastewater treatment, bio electrochemical systems, sustainable seawater desalination and bioenergy production
In 2009 he became Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin USA. Zhen was awarded a Green Talent in 2010, after a 2-year postdoctoral training period at the University of Southern California, USA. Since then, he has established a research program in environmental biotechnology and in 2013 was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure at Virginia Tech. His research has already resulted in numerous publications, over 120 journal papers, 2 granted US patents and collaborations with academic and industry partners.
In 2017 he was promoted to a Full Professor after four years as Associated Professor at Virginia Tech. He established the Center for Applied Water Research and Innovation (CAWRI), an industry supported research center, and became its inaugural director. He took over the position of Director for Virginia Tech Water/Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators Short School, an annual professional training program. He also joined the editorial teams of Journal of Environmental Engineering and Science for the Total Environment as an Associate Editor, and became a member of the Editorial Board for Chemical Engineering Journal. He also acted as the 2017 President for Chinese-American Professors in Environmental Engineering and Science (CAPEES).
2013 Early promotion with tenure
2013 Member of the Research and Innovation Committee and Associate Editor for Water Environment Research, Water Environment Federation
CV as submitted for the Green Talents award (2010):
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, USA
Research focus: Bioenergy recovery from wastewater
Dr He's academic career has taken him around the world, starting in his native China where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the prestigious Tongji University in Shanghai, before moving to Europe for a Master’s Degree from the Technical University of Denmark.
He then moved to the United States where he completed a Doctorate in Environmental Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. After a 2-year postdoctoral training at the University of Southern California, in 2009, Dr He joined the Department of Civil Engineering & Mechanics at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee as an assistant professor.
His current research interests are biological wastewater treatment, sustainable seawater desalination, and bioenergy production through bio-electrochemical systems such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial desalination cells (MDCs). MFCs convert chemical energy to electrical energy using the catalytic reaction of microorganisms. MFCs can generate electricity from almost any kind of organic matter so they can run on things like wastewater. The potential is obvious: Using MFCs in a wastewater treatment facility makes it possible to break down the organic waste while generating clean energy efficiently at the same time. MDCs are based on the same principle and use the energy generated by the microorganisms to desalinate water. This could potentially make them a sustainable alternative to today’s energy-intensive desalination technology. Dr He’s research has already resulted in numerous publications, patent applications and collaborations with academic and industry partners.
As part of the Green Talents Forum, Dr He is looking forward to visiting Germany’s leading research institutions and industrial research facilities. “This will provide invaluable opportunities for face-to-face communication with German scientists and researchers,” he says. “I am eager to experience the cutting-edge technologies and concepts developed in Germany and to share our research findings with our peers.”