Emerging Investigator Series – Chu Wenhai

Dr. Chu Wenhai is currently a professor of  College of Environmental Science and Engineering at Tongji University. Dr. Chu’s research is mainly focused on the identification, formation, and control of disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water. As project leader, he presided over 10 national scientific research projects and National Natural Science Foundation research projects about drinking water treatments and DBPs. He obtained 15 authorized national invention patents, some of which have been  applied successfully in large-scale water utilities in China. Dr. Chu and his team have published more than 100 SCI articles in leading journals (H index=29 with over 3000 citations). Moreover, he was elected to National Ministry of Environmental Protection Youth Top Talent Program, Shanghai Youth Top Talent Program, Shanghai Youth Science Technology Topstar  Program, and Tongji University Youth 100 Program. He is the secretary general of IWA Disinfection Professional Committee and the member of IWA China Youth Committee. He is also contributing as an editor to SCI journals such as Journal of Water Supply: Research and Technology-AQUA(associate editor);Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology (ESWRT) (guest editor). He was also the recipient of  the “National Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Nomination Award”, “Shanghai Graduate Outstanding Achievement Award”, “Shanghai Science and Technology Progress First Prize”, “Shanghai Science and Technology Progress Second Prize” and “China International Industrial Expo Bronze Award”.

Read his Emerging Investigator article “Emerging investigator series: Formation of brominated-haloacetamides from trihalomethanes during zero valent iron reduction and subsequent booster chlorination in drinking water distribution” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Formation of brominated-haloacetamides from trihalomethanes during zero valent iron reduction and subsequent booster chlorination in drinking water distribution. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

Actually, my first SCI paper in Ph. D. was about DBPs. I started my Ph.D. in 2007, and was employed as a professor in Tongji University since 2016. I was dedicated to DBP research during the decade and published over 100 SCI paper till now. Under the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Major Science and Technology Project, I have long sought to explore the identification, formation and control of DBPs, putting forward innovative theories and inventing comprehensive control methods of DBPs.

Despite DBPs have been studied extensively for decades, little knowledge is available regarding the formation of DBP during water distribution. Surprisingly, we found interesting reactions in the scenario of booster chlorination, which drives us to conduct the recent study. Also, DBP formation in wastewater collection system should also be concerned because a lot of disinfectants were used and discharged into wastewater collection system during the COVID-19 epidemic.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

The most exciting thing to me is to applied research results to water engineering and industry. Some analytical methods we developed has applied successfully in Chinese water utilities and testing centers; DBP control technologies we invented are efficiently in improving water quality and are playing a role in dozens of large-scale waterworks with the capability up to 10,000,000 cubic meters per day, serving for tens of millions of people. As one of the constitutors, I was engaged in the establishment of DBP guidelines and regulations, including the first drinking water standard and the first N-DBPs local regulation, which is also very thrilling and delightful to me.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

What’s the most important toxicity mechanism of DBPs? Which DBPs are most harmful in drinking water? To what extent DBP formed in disinfected wastewater can affect aquatic ecosystem? Which DBPs are most important in coming decades and supposed to be regulated?  What kind of DBP regulation are both efficient and economic?

What do you find most challenging about your research?

The underling mechanism between water quality and health, including drinking water versus human health and wastewater versus ecological health.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

The 13th IWA International Conference or Gordon conference on disinfection and oxidation.

How do you spend your spare time?

I spend most of my spare time reading research articles and discussing with students. I enjoy playing soccer with a bunch of colleagues and friends. I also spend some quality time with my family.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Doctor.  Saving lives is the duty of doctors. Likely, we are doctors for water, coming up with different therapies for ill water varying symptoms. Our mission is to provide people safer, healthier and higher quality water

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Concentrate on one thing and believe it.

Focus and dedication are codes for career success. Never give up!

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