David Waite

Scientia Professor and Deputy Dean (Strategic Initiatives)
Faculty Admin Engineering
Contact details:
(+61 2) 9385 5060
(+61 2) 9385 6139

Civil and Environmental Engineering (H20) Level 6, Room 616 Kensington Campus

Scientia Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Deputy Dean (Strategic Initiatives) in the Faculty of Engineering

Scientia Professor David Waite, from the UNSW Water Research Centre and School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is a researcher of international standing who has made a significant contribution to the field of environmental chemistry over the last four decades. He has particular expertise in the behaviour of elements such as iron, manganese, copper, silver and uranium in natural and engineered systems. He has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles in a number of international scientific journals, and has been awarded over $16 million in research funding for his work on water quality and treatment technology issues.

Professor Waite leads the Biogeochemical Engineering, Management and Systems (BioGEMS) research group that works to prevent environmental degradation and boost human health. The team of highly experienced researchers is involved in ARC Linkage and Discovery projects, projects with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and undertakes tailor-made commercial research for partners in industry.

Professor Waite is an inaugural Fellow of the PLuS Alliance, a collaboration between UNSW, King’s College London and Arizona State University. His research is supported by the Torch Innovation Precinct at UNSW, a $100 million innovation partnership with China, and he has won the prestigious Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Environment Medal.

Professor Waite is an RACI Fellow and Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales. He contributes actively to the RACI through his role as NSW Representative for the Division of Interfaces, Colloids and Nanomaterials. Professor Waite is Chair of the international conference series “Interfaces Against Pollution” and is an Associate Editor of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Interest in engineering

Why did you get into engineering?

I initially trained as a scientist but was keen to see knowledge applied to solve real world problems.

What excites you about environmental engineering?

Understanding how nature works allows us to develop solutions which are both appropriate and sustainable.

What are your research goals?

My aim is to undertake biogeochemical research which improves our understanding of natural aquatic systems and enables us to i) prevent environmental degradation and ii) develop appropriate solutions to challenges such as provision of water supply and improving human health.

What do people not understand about you do?

There are huge gaps in our understanding of the biogeochemical relationships in nature. Filing these knowledge gaps will both help prevent future environmental problems and assist in finding solutions for existing problems.

Lectures taught

Principles and applications of aquatic chemistry

Water and wastewater treatment


Number currently in lab: 15 PhD students, 10 Research Fellows

Number graduated: 37 PhD graduates

Student Project Areas:

Factors influencing the growth, toxicity and succession of marine and freshwater algae

Development of nanoparticle-based technologies of use in water treatment

Optimising use of membrane-based technologies in water and wastewater treatment

Development and application of advanced oxidation processes in water and wastewater treatment

Interplay between redox active metals and reactive oxygen species in natural aquatic systems

Characterisation and transformations of iron oxides in natural and engineered aquatic systems

Looking for students for projects related to:

Degradation of contaminants using advanced oxidation processes

Role of iron and copper in influencing growth and toxicity of marine and freshwater algae

Generation and behaviour of reactive oxygen species in natural and engineered aquatic systems

Applications of nanoparticulates in water and wastewater treatment

Applications of electrochemical and membrane-baswed processes in water and wastewater treatment

Professional Organisations and Service Roles


Fellow, Royal Australian Chemical Institute

Member, American Chemical Society

Member, American Chemical Society

Member, Phycological Society of America

Member, American Geophysical Union

Member, International Water Association

Current Service Roles

Chairman, Interfaces Against Pollution International Conference Series, 2010-ongoing

Director, Australia China Consortium for Water Research (2006-ongoing)

Technical Expert, Environment & Water Research Programme, Environment & Water

Industry Development Council (EWI), Singapore (2006 – ongoing)

Oz-Reader, Australian Research Council (2005-ongoing)

Awards, Grants, Etc.


Scientia Professorship, UNSW (2011-2016)

Guest Professor, ETH-Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology, Zurich (2013)

Guest Professor, Harbin Institute of Technology (2009-ongoing)

CNRS Visiting Scholar, University of Aix-Marseilles III and University of Paul Sabatier, Toulouse (2006)

Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Visiting Scholar Award (2005)

Fellow, Royal Australian Chemical Institute (1994)

Executive Director's Award for Outstanding Contributions to ANSTO (1990/91)

Current Research Grants

TD Waite, GL Leslie, J Guan, SJ Wilson, N Riethmuller, X Wang, PC Spencer; Innovative hybrid membrane-based pretreatment strategies for remote community groundwater supplies; ARC Linkage (LP130101107); 2013-2016; $720,000

TD Waite, M Wiesner; Reactive oxygen species generation by zerovalent silver nanoparticles; implications to toxicity and contaminant degradation; ARC Discovery (DP 120103222); 2012-2014; $360,000

TD Waite, AL Rose, RN Collins, G Waychunas; New perspectives on iron oxide transformations in oxic and anoxic aqueous environments: Implications for iron bioavailability and contaminant mobility; ARC Discovery (DP120103234); 2012-2014; $450,000


Ph.D. (Environmental Engineering), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA; 1983.

M.App.Sci., Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 1978.

Grad. Diploma of Electronic Instrumentation, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 1977.

B.Sc. (Honours), University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; 1974.