Desiree Louise Plata

Image of Desiree Louise Plata

Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Dr. Plata comes to Duke after serving as a visiting professor in the Department of Chemistry at Mount Holyoke College and as a visiting professor in the Departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Her work focuses on the development of novel chemicals, materials, and engineered systems to include performance, cost and environmental metrics.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Contact Information:
  • Office Location: Box 90287, 127B Hudson Hall, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5209
  • Email Address:
  • Web Page:

  • Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009

Research Interests:

My research interests focus on improving the development of novel chemicals and engineered systems to include environmental objectives, along with traditional performance and cost metrics. In particular, I seek to (1) predict and mitigate environmental damage through physiochemical understanding of material reactivity, prognostic fate models, and geochemical analyses, and (2) design benign syntheses via mechanistic understanding of chemical reactions used in industrial processes. Currently, I am excited about carbon-based nanomaterials and energy harvesting technologies.

Awards, Honors, and Distinctions:

  • Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, National Academy of Science, 2011
  • Excellence in Mentoring, Mount Holyoke College Student Government Assoc., 2011
  • George "Gera" P. Pantelev Award for Greatest Contribution to MIT/WHOI Joint Program, MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2009
  • C. Ellen Gonter Environmental Chemistry Award for top graduate student paper, American Chemical Society, Environmental Division, 2008
  • Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability, MIT, 2007
  • Ocean Venture Fund Graduate Student Award, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2007
  • COOP Grant for K-8 Science Education, Harvard/MIT COOP, 2004, 2005, 2006
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellow, National Science Foundation, 2004
  • Frank Bailey Prize for Greatest Service to Union College in any field, Union College, 2003
  • George Catlin Prize for promise in graduate study and college teaching, Union College, 2003
  • Phi Beta Kappa, 2003
  • Robert Fuller Prize for outstanding chemistry research, Union College, 2003
  • Sigma Xi, 2003
  • Summer Student Fellow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2002
  • NSF Award for the Integration of Research and Education Fellow, National Science Foundation, 2000

Courses Taught:
  • CEE 160L: Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Science
  • CEE 690: Advanced Topics in Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • CEE 701: Graduate Colloquium
  • CEE 702: Graduate Colloquium
  • CEE 890: Special Readings in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Representative Publications: (More Publications)
    • Jackson, RB; Down, A; Phillips, NG; Ackley, RC; Cook, CW; Plata, DL; Zhao, K, Natural gas pipeline leaks across Washington, DC., Environmental Science and Technology (Washington), vol 48 no. 3 (2014), pp. 2051-2058 [10.1021/es404474x] [abs].
    • Plata, DL; Ferguson, PL; Westerhoff, P, Express it in numbers: efforts to quantify engineered nanoparticles in environmental matrices advance., Environmental Science and Technology (Washington), vol 46 no. 22 (2012), pp. 12243-12245 [10.1021/es302789n] [abs].
    • Plata, DL; Reddy, CM; Gschwend, PM, Thermogravimetry-mass spectrometry for carbon nanotube detection in complex mixtures., Environmental Science and Technology (Washington), vol 46 no. 22 (2012), pp. 12254-12261 [10.1021/es203198x] [abs].
    • Wiesner, MR; Plata, DL, Environmental, health and safety issues: Incinerator filters nanoparticles, Nature Nanotechnology, vol 7 no. 8 (2012), pp. 487-488 [10.1038/nnano.2012.133] [abs].
    • Nessim, GD; Seita, M; Plata, DL; OBrien, KP; Hart, AJ; Meshot, ER; Reddy, CM; Gschwend, PM; Thompson, CV, Precursor gas chemistry determines the crystallinity of carbon nanotubes synthesized at low temperature, Carbon, vol 49 no. 3 (2011), pp. 804-810 [10.1016/j.carbon.2010.10.018] [abs].