CCEE’s Detlef Knappe tapped for AEESP’s Pohland Medal

James Ellen Distinguished Professor Detlef Knappe received the 2024 Frederick George Pohland Medal from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) and AAEES (American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists). The award “honors an individual who has made sustained and outstanding efforts to bridge environmental engineering research, education, and practice,” according to the AEESP website. Members of the AEESP or the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) are eligible to be nominated for the Pohland Medal. Knappe will be recognized at the 2025 AEESP Research and Education Conference.

Knappe said it was a “big surprise” to learn he had won the award.

“It’s a wonderful recognition of the hard work of my students and postdocs, who have developed important data sets showing high levels of chemical contamination in the Cape Fear River basin of North Carolina,” Knappe said. “The data served as a basis for regulatory decisions that have led to dramatic improvements in drinking water quality for more than a million North Carolinians.” 

The medal was established to honor Dr. Frederick G. Pohland, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Professor and Edward R. Weidlein Chair of Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He received numerous honors and awards and was the author of more than 150 technical and scientific publications.

Knappe’s research focuses on source water protection by identifying contaminants through targeted and non-targeted analyses and on the development of treatment approaches for the remediation of regulated and unregulated contaminants. 

His interest in environmental engineering began as a child growing up in the Black Forest of Germany, where acid rain and the associated death of trees was a chief concern. After taking a class on water and wastewater treatment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — where he earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in environmental engineering — he became interested in the effects of organic contaminants on drinking water quality and treatment approaches for their removal. 

At NC State, he led the CCEE research team that helped uncover the presence of GenX, a synthetic chemical, and other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River. 

Knappe serves as deputy director of NC State’s Center for Environmental and Human Health Effects of PFAS, a member of NC State’s Center for Human Health and the Environment, and faculty advisor for the NC Safewater Student Chapter at NC State.