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2018 Clarke Prize Honoree

Janet G. Hering

Janet G. Hering, Ph.D.
Director of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) in Switzerland

The National Water Research Institute (NWRI) is pleased to announce that Janet G. Hering, Ph.D., will receive the NWRI Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for advancing the access to safe drinking water in the United States and abroad.

“I am deeply honored to receive the NWRI Clarke Prize on its twenty-fifth anniversary,” said Hering.  “I am grateful to all my former mentors, colleagues, and the research group members who contributed to my research and supported my career. 

Water Quality Research

An aquatic biogeochemist by training, Hering has been instrumental in advancing access to safe drinking water in the United States and abroad.  Early in her career, she focused her efforts on understanding the chemistry of drinking water treatment.  While receiving a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, she conducted “elegant work on the surprisingly slow kinetics of some reactions between trace metals and organic complexing agents in natural water,” said her former Ph.D. advisor, François Morel, then at MIT, now Professor of Geosciences at Princeton University.  Morel noted she carried out “cleverly designed experiments” and created a theoretical framework to document and quantify the previously-unknown phenomenon.  Her insights continue to inform studies of the behavior of trace metals in natural waters.

Hering initially joined Eawag as a Research Fellow after receiving her Ph.D. and began making significant contributions to the field of mineral-water interfaces.  Recognized for her leadership skills, she successfully performed duties beyond those of the traditional postdoc position, including organizing scientific exchanges with researchers at other institutions and managing international conferences.  In 1993, she and Morel co-authored a textbook, titled Principles and Applications of Aquatic Chemistry, that – according to Dr. David Sedlak of the University of California Berkeley and one of Hering’s longtime collaborators – is “a masterpiece that has influenced the way in which water chemistry is taught to environmental engineers, geochemists, and environmental scientists around the world.”

International and Interdisciplinary Collaborations

Dr. Hering returned to the United States to teach at the University of California, Los Angeles, and later at the California Institute of Technology, where she focused much of her research on arsenic removal in drinking water treatment.  Hering’s research was critical to the efforts of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to treat naturally occurring arsenic in its watershed.  She also served on various expert committees on arsenic, including as a panel member for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Arsenic Research and as a consultant to the Drinking Water Committee of the USEPA Science Advisory Board.  For her outstanding work on arsenic, she was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2015.

Hering’s current investigational efforts at Eawag focus on advancing research in the areas of water quality and management, as well as on promoting collaboration among universities worldwide.  For example, she has helped establish interdisciplinary and international collaboration by inviting Professors from the U.S. for guest professorships and lectureships.  In addition, Eawag is an international partner with the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt).  Hering also balances water science with water policy, supporting the synthesis between academic research and its real-world applications.  She advocates that water researchers focus on the broader impact of their studies by addressing issues directly related to the well-being of the public while also creating benefits for governments and funding agencies.  A thoughtful and prolific writer, she has written for various scientific journals, and her works have been cited extensively (for example, a 2004 article for ES&T has been downloaded over 19,000 times).

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