Scientia Professor David Waite

Scientia Professor David Waite

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Scientia Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Executive Director and CEO, UNSW Centre for Transformational Environmental Technologies (CTET)


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 350 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 technologies.

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 was recently appointed to the role of Executive Director and CEO of the UNSW Centre for Transformational Environmental Technologies (CTET).

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 a Fellow of both the Royal Australian Chemistry Institute (RACI) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales and a Foreign Member of the United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE).  Professor Waite is an Associate Editor of the American Chemical Society 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.

(+61 2) 9385 5060
Civil and Environmental Engineering Vallentine Annex (H22) Kensington Campus
  • Journal articles | 2022
    Kinsela AS; Payne TE; Bligh MW; Vázquez-Campos X; Wilkins MR; Comarmond MJ; Rowling B; Waite TD, 2022, 'Contaminant release, mixing and microbial fluctuations initiated by infiltrating water within a replica field-scale legacy radioactive waste trench', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 851, pp. 158241,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Kurajica L; Ujević Bošnjak M; Kinsela AS; Bieroza M; Štiglić J; Waite TD; Capak K; Romić , 2022, 'Mixing of arsenic-rich groundwater and surface water in drinking water distribution systems: Implications for contaminants, disinfection byproducts and organic components', Chemosphere, vol. 292,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Kurajica L; Ujević Bošnjak M; Kinsela AS; Štiglić J; Waite TD, 2022, 'Heavy metal, organic matter, and disinfection byproduct release from drinking water pipe scales under stagnant conditions', Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Lian B; Zhu Y; Branchaud D; Wang Y; Bales C; Bednarz T; Waite TD, 2022, 'Application of digital twins for remote operation of membrane capacitive deionization (mCDI) systems', Desalination, vol. 525,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Sun J; Garg S; Xie J; Zhang C; Waite TD, 2022, 'Electrochemical Reduction of Nitrate with Simultaneous Ammonia Recovery Using a Flow Cathode Reactor', Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 56, pp. 17298 - 17309,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Sun Y; Kinsela AS; Cen X; Sun S; Collins RN; Cliff DI; Wu Y; Waite TD, 2022, 'Impact of reactive iron in coal mine dust on oxidant generation and epithelial lung cell viability', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 810, pp. 152277,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Sun Y; Kinsela AS; Waite TD, 2022, 'Elucidation of alveolar macrophage cell response to coal dusts: Role of ferroptosis in pathogenesis of coal workers' pneumoconiosis', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 823,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Xie J; Zhang C; David Waite T, 2022, 'Integrated flow anodic oxidation and ultrafiltration system for continuous defluorination of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)', Water Research, vol. 216, pp. 118319,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Xie J; Zhang C; Waite TD, 2022, 'Hydroxyl radicals in anodic oxidation systems: generation, identification and quantification', Water Research, vol. 217, pp. 118425,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Fu J; Bligh MW; Shikhov I; Jones AM; Holt C; Keyte LM; Moghaddam F; Arns CH; Foster SJ; Waite TD, 2021, 'A microstructural investigation of a Na2SO4 activated cement-slag blend', Cement and Concrete Research, vol. 150, pp. 106609 - 106609,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Huang J; Jones A; Waite TD; Chen Y; Huang X; Rosso KM; Kappler A; Mansor M; Tratnyek PG; Zhang H, 2021, 'Fe(II) Redox Chemistry in the Environment', Chemical Reviews, vol. 121, pp. 8161 - 8233,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Xie J; Ma J; Zhang C; Waite TD, 2021, 'Direct electron transfer (DET) processes in a flow anode system–Energy-efficient electrochemical oxidation of phenol', Water Research, vol. 203, pp. 117547,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Xie J; Ma J; Zhao S; Waite TD, 2021, 'Flow anodic oxidation: Towards high-efficiency removal of aqueous contaminants by adsorbed hydroxyl radicals at 1.5 V vs SHE', Water Research, vol. 200, pp. 117259,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Zhang C; Cheng X; Wang M; Ma J; Collins R; Kinsela A; Zhang Y; Waite TD, 2021, 'Phosphate recovery as vivianite using a flow-electrode capacitive desalination (FCDI) and fluidized bed crystallization (FBC) coupled system', Water Research, vol. 194, pp. 116939,
    Journal articles | 2015
    Alexova R; Dang TC; Fujii M; Raftery MJ; Waite TD; Ferrari BC; Neilan BA, 2015, 'Specific global responses to N and Fe nutrition in toxic and non-toxic Microcystis aeruginosa', Environmental Microbiology,
    Journal articles | 1999
    Aplin R; Waite TD, 1999, 'Comparison of three advanced oxidation processes for degradation of textile dyes', Water, vol. 26, pp. 34 - 35
  • Conference Papers | 2013
    Wang Y; Tng KH; Wu H; Leslie G; Waite TD, 2013, 'Removal of phosphorus from membrane bioreactors using a ferrous salt – a pilot scale study', in Water Research, Elsevier, Toronto, Canada, pp. 140 - 150, presented at The 7th IWA Specialised Membrane Technology Conference and Exhibition for Water and Wastewater Treatment and Reuse, Toronto, Canada, 25 August 2013 - 29 August 2013,