photo of Damian E. Helbling

Damian E Helbling

Associate Professor
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Hollister Hall, Room 273


Damian E. Helbling did his undergraduate work at The Pennsylvania State University where he received a BS in civil engineering with a minor in environmental engineering. During his years as an undergrad, Helbling also held a position as a National Science Foundation REU fellow at the Center for Biofilm Engineering in Bozeman, Montana. Following graduation, Helbling worked for several years as an environmental engineering consultant before turning to graduate school. He received his MS and PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His graduate research focused on the use of sensor networks within drinking water distribution systems to monitor and control post-treatment water quality. Helbling did his postdoctoral work at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) in Dübendorf, Switzerland where he explored the fate and transport of trace organic contaminants with a particular focus on biological transformation processes.

Research Interests

Helbling is interested in water quality as it relates to human and ecosystem health. He is particularly interested in investigating the chemical and biological processes that influence contaminant fate and nutrient cycling in natural and engineered aquatic systems. One major research thrust has focused on biotransformation processes acting on trace organic contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides in natural and engineered biological systems. Research in this area has involved the experimental elucidation of the chemical and biological determinants of these processes by uniquely combining state-of-the-art analytical techniques from the fields of environmental analytical chemistry and environmental microbiology. Novel data mining and data processing tools are being developed to parse large dataset acquisitions and discover predictive chemical and biological descriptors of these processes. The overall goals of Helbling's broader research program are to develop: (i) mechanistic models for contaminant fate and exposure risk assessment; (ii) next-generation water treatment and resource recovery technologies; and (iii) comprehensive and sustainable management strategies for urban water systems.

Selected Publications

  • Alsbaiee, A., B J. Smith, L. Xiao, Y. Ling, D E. Helbling, W R Dichtel. 2016."Rapid removal of organic micropollutants from water by a porous ß-cyclodextrin polymer."Nature529: 190-194.
  • Pochodylo, A L., D E Helbling. 2017."Emerging investigators series: prioritization of suspect hits in a sensitive suspect screening workflow for comprehensive micropollutant characterization in environmental samples."Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol..
  • Ling, Yuhan, Max Klemes, Leilei Xiao, Alaaeddin Alsbaiee, William Dichtel, Damian Helbling. 2017."Benchmarking micropollutant removal by activated carbon and porous β-cyclodextrin polymers under environmentally relevant scenarios."Environmental Science & Technology51(13): 7590-7598.
  • Xiao, Leilei, Yuhan Ling, Alaaeddin Alsbaiee, Chenjun Li, Damian Helbling, William R Dichtel. 2017."A β-cyclodextrin polymer network sequesters PFOA at environmentally relevant concentrations."Journal of the American Chemical Society139(23): 7689-7692.
  • Carpenter, Corey M.G., Damian Helbling. 2017."Removal of micropollutants in biofilters: hydrodynamic effects on biofilm assembly and functioning."Water research(120): 211-221.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Emerging Investigator - Featured in Special Issue of Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology(Royal Society of Chemistry)2017
  • ES&T Letters Excellence in Review Award2017
  • ES&T Excellence in Review Award2016
  • James and Mary Tien Excellence in Teaching Award(Cornell University)2016
  • ES&T Editor's Choice Award - Best Environmental Science Paper2010


  • Ph D(Civil and Environmental Engineering),Carnegie Mellon University,2008


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