Leanne Gilbertson

Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Gilbertson's research focuses on sustainable design of emerging materials and products. She integrates molecular design and systems-level analysis to advance minimally impactful, high performing solutions that address today’s most pressing challenges at the intersection of environmental and public health.

Prior to joining Duke in 2023, Dr. Gilbertson was an Associate Professor and the Fulton C. Noss Faculty Fellow in the CEE Department at the University of Pittsburgh. She completed a postdoc in the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University and holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University's Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Gilbertson received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in education from Hamilton College, after which she spent several years as a secondary school teacher before returning to graduate school. Her background and experiences underline the interdisciplinary research program she leads.

Dr. Gilbertson’s research projects involve designing materials to advance sustainable development of solutions to drinking water treatment, food production, and antimicrobial resistant challenges. Her research has been recognized and is supported by the National Science Foundation, including the CAREER award, 3M non-tenured faculty award, and the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. She was also a Gordon and Betty Moore Inventor Fellow finalist.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Associate Professor in the Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 534 Research Dr, Wilkinson Building, Durham, NC 27705
  • Office Phone: +1 919 668 2154
  • Email Address: leanne.gilbertson@duke.edu
  • Websites:


  • B.S. Hamilton College, 2007
  • M.Phil. Yale University, 2012
  • M.S. Yale University, 2012
  • Ph.D. Yale University, 2014

Research Interests

My research focuses on manipulating material chemistry in a way that tunes properties for advancing solutions in the areas of food production using fewer resources and lower environmental impact, and water disinfection using inherently benign materials. I study fundamental science underlying interactions of the materials my group develops with(in) environmental interfaces, such as microbes, plants, and soils. 

To support sustainable development of our solutions, my research group employs life cycle assessment (LCA) to evaluate our material syntheses, material and technology use scenarios, and projected end-of-life handling to inform design decisions that minimize impacts and eliminate inherently hazardous components.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions

  • American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) 40 Under 40. AAEES. 2022
  • National Science Foundation CAREER Awards - Multiple Sciences. National Science Foundation (NSF). 2021
  • Mara H. Wasburn Early Engineering Educator Grant. Women in Engineering Division of ASEE. 2019
  • Moore Inventor Fellow - Finalist. Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. 2017
  • 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award. 3M. 2017
  • Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award . ORAU. 2017

Courses Taught

  • CEE 690: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Huffman, D. P., S. Pitell, P. Moncure, J. Stout, J. E. Millstone, S. J. Haig, and L. M. Gilbertson. “Moving beyond silver in point-of-use drinking water pathogen control.” Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology 10, no. 5 (February 20, 2024): 1009–18. https://doi.org/10.1039/d3ew00564j.
  • Gilbertson, L. M., M. J. Eckelman, and T. L. Theis. “Leveraging engineered nanomaterials to support material circularity.” Environmental Science: Nano, January 1, 2024. https://doi.org/10.1039/d4en00110a.
  • Shah, Y., and L. M. Gilbertson. “Balancing functional properties and environmental impact of graphitic carbon nitride: a case study on boron doping syntheses.” Environmental Science: Nano 11, no. 1 (December 5, 2023): 78–90. https://doi.org/10.1039/d3en00633f.
  • Johnson, E. P., N. Aquino de Carvalho, L. M. Gilbertson, and D. L. Plata. “Acid Treatment in Alkyl-Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes: Soft Functionalization Techniques with Lower Environmental Footprint.” ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering 11, no. 43 (October 30, 2023): 15523–32. https://doi.org/10.1021/acssuschemeng.3c02560.
  • Norton, A., D. Scheff, and L. M. Gilbertson. “Preface.” ACS Symposium Series 1449 (October 2, 2023): IX–X. https://doi.org/10.1021/bk-2023-1449.pr001.