Heileen Hsu-Kim

Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor Heileen (Helen) Hsu-Kim is an environmental engineer who specializes in environmental aquatic chemistry and geochemistry. Her research tackles problems related to pollutant metals and the biogeochemical processes that alter their distribution in water, soil, and air. The applications of this work include environmental remediation technologies, the impacts of energy production on water resources, global environmental health, and the environmental implications and applications of nanotechnology.

Dr. Hsu-Kim's current research projects are focused on mercury biogeochemistry, the impacts of coal ash disposal on water quality, recovering valuable materials from geological wastes, and health impacts of trace metal/metalloid exposures. A central theme to her work is the utilization of chemical speciation for understanding and predicting the persistence, mobility and bioavailability of metals and minerals in the aquatic environment.

The methodologies her group employs for this research include laboratory techniques for quantifying trace element speciation, functional measures of reactivity and bioavailability of contaminant metals, and techniques to probe interactions at mineral, water and microbial interfaces.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 118A Hudson Hall, Box 90287, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5109
  • Email Address: hsukim@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1998
  • M.S. University of California - Berkeley, 1999
  • Ph.D. University of California - Berkeley, 2004

Research Interests

Aquatic chemistry and geochemistry, trace element environmental chemistry, nanogeoscience, mercury biogeochemistry, water-particle surface processes.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. President of the United States of America. 2011

Courses Taught

  • CEE 393: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 394: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 461L: Environmental Aquatic Chemistry
  • CEE 493: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 494: Research Independent Study in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 560: Environmental Transport Phenomena
  • CEE 561L: Environmental Aquatic Chemistry
  • CEE 666: Aquatic Geochemistry
  • CEE 691: Independent Study: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • ENERGY 395T: Bass Connections Energy & Environment Research Team
  • ENERGY 795T: Bass Connections Energy & Environment Research Team
  • ENVIRON 393: Research Independent Study
  • ENVIRON 542L: Environmental Aquatic Chemistry
  • ENVIRON 666: Aquatic Geochemistry
  • ENVIRON 899: Master's Project
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Jiang, Chuanjia, Benjamin T. Castellon, Cole W. Matson, George R. Aiken, and Heileen Hsu-Kim. “Relative Contributions of Copper Oxide Nanoparticles and Dissolved Copper to Cu Uptake Kinetics of Gulf Killifish (Fundulus grandis) Embryos.” Environmental Science & Technology 51, no. 3 (February 2017): 1395–1404. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b04672.
  • Schwartz, Grace E., Lauren K. Redfern, Kaoru Ikuma, Claudia K. Gunsch, Laura S. Ruhl, Avner Vengosh, and Heileen Hsu-Kim. “Impacts of coal ash on methylmercury production and the methylating microbial community in anaerobic sediment slurries.” Environmental Science. Processes & Impacts 18, no. 11 (November 2016): 1427–39. https://doi.org/10.1039/c6em00458j.
  • Taggart, Ross K., James C. Hower, Gary S. Dwyer, and Heileen Hsu-Kim. “Trends in the Rare Earth Element Content of U.S.-Based Coal Combustion Fly Ashes.” Environmental Science & Technology 50, no. 11 (June 2016): 5919–26. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b00085.
  • Schwartz, G. E., N. Rivera, S. W. Lee, J. M. Harrington, J. C. Hower, K. E. Levine, A. Vengosh, and H. Hsu-Kim. “Leaching potential and redox transformations of arsenic and selenium in sediment microcosms with fly ash.” Applied Geochemistry 67 (April 1, 2016): 177–85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2016.02.013.
  • Diringer, Sarah E., Beth J. Feingold, Ernesto J. Ortiz, John A. Gallis, Julio M. Araújo-Flores, Axel Berky, William K. Y. Pan, and Heileen Hsu-Kim. “River transport of mercury from artisanal and small-scale gold mining and risks for dietary mercury exposure in Madre de Dios, Peru.” Environmental Science. Processes & Impacts 17, no. 2 (February 2015): 478–87. https://doi.org/10.1039/c4em00567h.
  • Hsu-Kim, Heileen, Katarzyna H. Kucharzyk, Tong Zhang, and Marc A. Deshusses. “Mechanisms regulating mercury bioavailability for methylating microorganisms in the aquatic environment: a critical review.” Environ Sci Technol 47, no. 6 (March 19, 2013): 2441–56. https://doi.org/10.1021/es304370g.