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Claudia K. Gunsch


Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Claudia Gunsch is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and holds secondary appointments in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She joined the Duke Faculty in 2004 after obtaining her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, her MS from Clemson University and her BS from Purdue University. Currently, she serves as the Director for PreMiEr, the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Precision Microbiome Engineering which is a joint venture between Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. She also serves as an Associate Director for the Duke Microbiome Center. Previous leadership roles include serving as Associate Dean for Research and Infrastructure for the Pratt School of Engineering (2021-2022), Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement (2019-2021) and as the Director of IBIEM (Integrative Bioinformatics for Investigating and Engineering Microbiomes), a joint graduate training program between Duke and North Carolina A&T State University (2015-2021).

Dr. Gunsch’s research bridges environmental engineering and molecular biotechnology. Current research foci include investigating the ecological impacts of emerging contaminants on environmental microbiomes, developing microbiome engineering approaches for bioremediation, studying microbial evolution following exposure to anthropogenic contaminants and developing innovative water treatment technologies. Her work has been funded in excess of $36 million by the National Science Foundation, US Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety as well as state funding agencies and private industry.  Since becoming a faculty member, she has served as the primary mentor for 28 graduate students (8 MS and 20 PhD), 34 undergraduate students and 8 postdoctoral associates. She has been recognized for her research, teaching and service activities with several awards including the 2009 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, 2013 Langford Lectureship Award, 2016 Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising and the 2016 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. Dr. Gunsch was also named ASCE Environmental & Water Resources Institute Fellow in 2022, Bass Fellow in 2016 and Fellow of the National Academy of Engineering for the United States Frontiers of Engineering in 2011 as well as the Indo-American Frontiers of Engineering in 2014.

She currently serves as Editor in Chief for Biodegradation. She is also a member of the Editorial Board for npj Clean Water and Industrial Biotechnology.  She serves on the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Board of Directors and has previously held several leadership roles within the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI).  Most recently, she served as the Environmental Council representative to the Technical Executive Committee to EWRI. 

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Microbiome Engineering (PreMiEr)
  • Associate Professor in the Division of Environmental Science and Policy
  • Faculty Network Member of The Energy Initiative

Contact Information


  • Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin, 2004
  • M.S. Clemson University, 2000
  • B.S. Purdue University, 1998

Research Interests

Identifying genetic adaptation mechanisms resulting from anthropogenic contaminant exposure; developing biosensors capable of pathogen and contaminant detection in water and air; studying the impact of emerging contaminants on aquatic microbial ecology; and the development of novel techniques for controlling pathogen proliferation

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Fellow. ASCE Environmental & Water Resources Institute. 2022
  • Fellow. ELATES . 2018
  • Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising. Pratt School of Engineering. 2016
  • Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize. ASCE . 2016
  • Langford Lectureship Award . Duke University . 2013
  • Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. National Science Foundation. 2009
  • NSF Graduate Fellowship. National Science Foundation. 1999

Courses Taught

  • BME 565L: Environmental Molecular Biotechnology (GE, MC)
  • CEE 493: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 494: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 566: Environmental Microbiology
  • CEE 661L: Environmental Molecular Biotechnology (GE, MC)
  • CEE 690: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 692: Independent Study: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • ENVIRON 393: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 394: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Varner, PM; Allemann, MN; Michener, JK; Gunsch, CK, The effect of bacterial growth strategies on plasmid transfer and naphthalene degradation for bioremediation., Environmental Technology and Innovation, vol 28 (2022) [abs].
  • Varner, PM; Gunsch, CK, Complete Genome Sequence of NAH7-Harboring Pseudomonas putida Strain G7., Microbiology Resource Announcements, vol 11 no. 10 (2022) [10.1128/mra.00394-22] [abs].
  • Welling, CM; Singleton, DR; Haase, SB; Browning, CH; Stoner, BR; Gunsch, CK; Grego, S, Predictive values of time-dense SARS-CoV-2 wastewater analysis in university campus buildings., The Science of the Total Environment, vol 835 (2022) [10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155401] [abs].
  • Gardner, CM; Gerhard, WA; Redfern, LK; Gunsch, CK, Evaluation of developing maize microbiomes and associations among nitrogen cyclers and key fungal taxa., Microbiology, vol 168 no. 3 (2022) [10.1099/mic.0.001155] [abs].
  • Addis, SD; Formel, SK; Kim, YJ; Varner, PB; Raudabaugh, DB; Lefevre, E; Bernik, BM; Elango, V; Van Bael, SA; Pardue, JH; Gunsch, CK, Alterations of endophytic microbial community function in Spartina alterniflora as a result of crude oil exposure., Biodegradation, vol 33 no. 1 (2022), pp. 87-98 [10.1007/s10532-021-09968-5] [abs].

Affiliate Topics in Materials Research