Rice University’s Pedro Alvarez wins Clarke Prize

David Ruth

Jade Boyd

Rice University’s Pedro Alvarez wins Clarke Prize

HOUSTON — (June 12, 2012) — Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, has been awarded the prestigious Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for “excellence in water research” by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI).

The NWRI lauded Alvarez for his “global leadership and contributions to enhancing water resource sustainability through water pollution control” and singled out his pioneering research in bioremediation and environmental nanotechnology.

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

“The Clarke Prize is one of the greatest honors I’ve received in my life,” Alvarez said.  “It’s an inspiration for generosity, integrity, and world affirmation – the idea that the world can be a better place and we can do something about it by making water safer and more affordable.”

Alvarez received his Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 1992 from the University of Michigan. From 1993 to 2003 he was at the University of Iowa, where he served as associate director of the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing. He became a full professor in 2001 and joined the Rice faculty in 2004. He has served as department chair since 2005.

As a doctoral student, Alvarez started his research into bioremediation, a process that uses bacteria and other microorganisms to remove contaminants from water. He has authored two textbooks on bioremediation in soil and water, including the only such book in Spanish. BP recently used his research to develop hydrogeology models for evaluating the potential impact of biofuels on groundwater.

Since joining Rice, Alvarez has pioneered research on environmental nanotechnology including the risks posed to microbial ecosystem services by released nanomamterials and nano-enabled disinfection and microbial control.

Earlier this year, he joined the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the invitation of the agency’s director, Lisa Jackson.Alvarez is former president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and is an editor of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Alvarez is a diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Clarke Prize includes a medallion, $50,000 and an awards dinner. Alvarez will receive the honor Nov. 2 at the 19th annual NWRI Clarke Prize Lecture and Award Ceremony in Orange County, California.  The prize was established in 1993 to honor NWRI’s co-founder, the late Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke.


Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is known for its “unconventional wisdom.” With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 4 for “best value” among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/Rice.pdf.

About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.