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Marc Edwards named MacArthur Fellow for drinking water safety efforts


BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 26, 2007 – Marc Edwards, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, has been named a MacArthur Fellow for 2007 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Edwards will receive a five-year grant of $500,000 from the foundation to use in any way he chooses.

The 24 new MacArthur Fellows were selected from among hundreds of nominees for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

"As a group, this new class of Fellows takes one's breath away," said Daniel J. Socolow, Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program. "As individuals, each is an original. To the person, they confirm that the creative individual is alive and well, at the cutting edge, and at work singularly and powerfully to make our world a better place. They are people who will change and influence our times."

Edwards is cited by the MacArthur Fellows program for "playing a vital role in ensuring the safety of drinking water and in exposing deteriorating water-delivery infrastructure in America's largest cities. An expert in the chemistry and toxicity of urban water supplies in the U.S., he has made significant advancements in a number of areas, including arsenic removal, coagulation of natural organic material, and the causes and control of copper and lead corrosion in new and aging distribution systems."

While investigating the Washington, D.C. area's water supply in 2003, Edwards and his graduate students discovered that the addition of chloramine disinfectant in tap water increased the incidence of lead leaching in residential and commercial aqueducts. This research linked several cases of lead poisoning, earlier thought to be caused by lead paint, to local tap water. The findings also revealed systemic weaknesses in the regional water testing program, prompting the Washington Area Water Authority to replace lead service lines throughout the district.

In 2004 Time magazine dubbed Edwards "The Plumbing Professor" and featured him as one of the nation's leading scientific innovators.

He is expanding his research to other cities, defining better ways to test local water and predict the risk of chemical contamination in urban infrastructure. "Through his exhaustive research efforts," according to the MacArthur Fellows biography, "Edwards is making critical contributions to the health of individuals and communities throughout the U.S. in an often-neglected area of domestic public safety."

Earlier this year he received the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award, the Commonwealth's highest honor for faculty, from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Edwards came to Virginia Tech in 1997 from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where, in 1996, the National Science Foundation (NSF) selected him as one of only 20 young engineering faculty in the nation to receive a Presidential Faculty Fellowship. He completed his master's degree and Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the University of Washington and earned his bachelor's degree in bio-physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grant-making institution. With an endowment over $6.4 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $225 million each year. For more information, visit www.macfound.org.

Virginia Tech's College of Engineering is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a hands-on, minds-on approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,900 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study, including biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.