Carnegie Mellon University

Terry Collins

March 14, 2018

Terry Collins Wins Carnegie Science Awards

By Ben Panko

Terry Collins, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, has received this year's Environmental Award from the Carnegie Science Center for his innovative work in low-cost yet highly effective water purification.

Dozens of synthetic compounds used by people today in household products, medicines, foods and pesticides are micropollutants — substances that can harm humans and the environment in relatively small amounts. Most of these chemicals end up washed down drains into our wastewater, where traditional treatment methods are unable to fully remove them. Instead, they are released into streams, rivers and lakes where they can eventually return to us in our drinking water. Similarly, micropollutants often contaminate agricultural and industrial wastewater.

For more than two decades, Collins, who directs Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Green Science, has been perfecting a technique to remove those micropollutants in a safe, effective and affordable way. He has developed a group of catalysts known as NewTAML activators that act like oxidizing enzymes to break down harmful chemicals in water. NewTAML catalyst technologies have been repeatedly shown to easily and safely remove from water harmful endocrine disrupting chemicals such as natural and synthetic estrogens and BPA, a compound used in making many plastics and can linings, triclosan, a common disinfectant, and many other drugs that can harm aquatic organisms at low doses.

"Dr. Terry Collins is a pioneer in the field of green chemistry, and his body of work, particularly his advancements in water treatment, make him a wonderful awardee in this category," said Chris Hartigan, Chair of the Selection Committee for the Environmental Award. "Green chemistry and innovative water-treatment technologies are vital to maintaining and improving our standard of living, while reducing toxic impacts to our environment."

The Carnegie Science Awards were established in 1997 to recognize and promote outstanding science and technology achievements in western Pennsylvania. More than 550 organizations and individuals have been recognized by the awards in the fields of science, technology and education for their impact on the region’s industrial, academic and environmental vitality.

The Carnegie Science Awards will be presented at a banquet on May 4 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.