New Civil and Environmental Department Chair Announced

Sunny JiangJune 7, 2017 - Sunny Jiang will serve as the next chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), beginning July 1, 2017. Jiang, professor of environmental engineering and associate director for the UCI Water and Energy Nexus Center, will succeed Brett Sanders. She will be the first woman to hold a department chair position at the Samueli School of Engineering.

In her new role, Jiang is hoping to build more collaboration among the department’s research areas – structures, transportation and water (hydrology, and water quality and treatment). As senior faculty retire, she will have the opportunity to hire new faculty, and aims to find academics who can help bridge these areas.

“I want to identify the right mix to grow our strengths; there are lots of ideas right now for smart cities and opportunities for connections between hydrology, water treatment, transportation and structures,” says Jiang, whose own research focuses on microbiological water quality, engineered and natural water treatment, and quantitative microbial risk assessment. Her group pioneered the development of a molecular detection system for rapid human virus identification in water and contributed to the U.S. EPA’s policy decision on water quality and human health protection in water reuse and water recreation.

Jiang says the department already has a solid foundation. “Brett’s leadership has been supportive and transparent, and I hope to continue that.”

Jiang is also aware of the need to be a role model for other women. She has had two strong female mentors in Joan Rose, a global water science expert, and Rita Colwell, an environmental microbiologist and former NSF director. Rose was one of her Ph.D. advisors and Colwell served as a postdoctoral mentor.

Jiang earned her doctorate in marine science from the University of South Florida. She has been a professor at UCI since 1998, starting in the School of Social Ecology and moving to CEE in 2006. Her current research projects include assessment of low-energy water treatment technologies for pathogen removal in harvested stormwater and human health risk assessment. She also researches water quality for on-site treatment of human waste using electrochemical reactors and online sensing systems to detect pathogen breakthroughs in water reuse. She has served on the U.S. National Academies committee to guide the nation on water reuse decisions and contributed her expertise on the World Health Organization committee for desalination.

– Lori Brandt