Prof. Menachem Elimelech in China for Election to CAE

Prof. Menachem Elimelech, the Roberto C. Goizueta Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, was in China last week for his election to the prestigious Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Cited for his “distinguished contributions to Environmental Engineering and to the promotion of China-USA exchanges and cooperation in engineering sciences and technology,” Elimelech is only one of 18 foreign members elected to the CAE this year, and one of two in the category of environmental engineering. The group of foreign members elected this year also includes Bill Gates and Nobel laureates James Fraser Stoddart and Andre Geim.

The first day of the three-day event was held at the Great Hall of the People, a government building in Tiananmen Square. There, an assembly combining the CAE and the Chinese Academy of Sciences listened to a 90-minute speech from China President Xi Jinping on the importance of science and engineering. Following the speech of President Xi, the elected CAE members met with China’s Vice Premier, Liu He, and discussed issues related to the future of science and technology in China.

At an afternoon ceremony held just for the foreign elected members, Elimelech received a plaque and met with CAE President Zhou Ji. He also received a diplomat card affording him VIP privileges in China. On the second day, he gave a lecture on “Global Challenges for Water Supply” at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing. He gave a second lecture the next day to all the academy’s elected members.

“It was quite impressive,” Elimelech said of the ceremony. “My impression is that they really respect scientists and engineers. In China, there are 40 million engineers - President Jinping is a chemical engineer -  so they’re quite serious about them there.”

In addition to Elimelech being a highly cited researcher, the academy also likely took into consideration his work on membrane technologies for water and wastewater treatment, both major issues of concern in China. He has also collaborated with many Chinese researchers and consulted with several companies in the country. Additionally, he has six visiting researchers from China working in his lab.

To be elected as a foreign member to the CAE, engineers must already be members of the national academy of engineers in their own country. In 2006, Elimelech was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional honors accorded an engineer.

His election to the CAE is just the most recent of numerous major awards in recognition of his pioneering research. Other notable examples include the Eni Award for Protection of the Environment in 2015 - often considered the Nobel Prize for Energy/Environment; and the Clarke Prize for excellence in water research in 2005. Elimelech is also a Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters) Highly Cited Researcher (top 1%) in Chemistry and Environment/Ecology.

Elimelech is also an effective and inspiring mentor. He has advised 38 Ph.D. students and over 30 postdoctoral researchers, many of whom hold leading positions in academia and industry. In recognition of his excellence in mentoring, he received the Yale University Graduate Mentoring Award in 2004 and Postdoctoral Mentoring Prize in 2012.