Baohua Gu

Baohua Gu

Environmental Sciences Division


For his seminal work on elucidating key molecular-scale mechanisms that govern biogeochemical transformation of contaminants, trace metals, and natural organic matter, which has made significant contributions to the understanding of natural organic and metal cycling in terrestrial ecosystems and remediation of contaminated sites, and also for his contributions to the development of the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Dr. Baohua Gu received his BSc in chemistry from Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing, China, in 1982; his MSc in soil chemistry from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in 1986; and his PhD in geochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1991. He began his career at ORNL in 1992 and is currently a corporate fellow and team lead for Molecular Scale & Biogeochemical Processes in the Environmental Sciences Division, with a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Dr. Gu is an internationally recognized expert in environmental geochemistry, most noted for his innovative approach to studying organo-metal interactions and for his use of various spectroscopic techniques to characterize the fate, transformation, and transport of heavy metals, radionuclides, and nanomaterials in aquatic and terrestrial systems. His foundational research on the interaction of natural organic matter (NOM) with contaminants, mineral particles, and microorganisms in the environment continues to mold the research community’s theories on NOM-mineral interactions today. These and other findings continue to inform his research today as he studies the implications of a warming climate on the degradation of soil organic carbon by microbes and its impact on greenhouse gas production in the Arctic in support of next-generation climate models.

Dr. Gu’s research activities also span technology development and deployment, resulting in his receiving six patents and a 2004 R&D 100 Award. His pioneering work in the development and testing of a regenerable ion-exchange technology for perchlorate extraction, water treatment, and isotopic source identification is especially notable. This work not only culminated in the 2004 R&D 100 Award, but also transformed how perchlorate research is conducted globally.

He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed publications in high-visibility journals, with over 9,000 citations. Dr. Gu has received numerous awards from ORNL, the US Department of Defense (DoD), and the US State Department, including Scientist of the Year (ORNL), Inventor of the Year (ORNL), ESTCP Project of the Year (DoD), and Fulbright Senior Specialist Scholar. Dr. Gu has also been recognized as a fellow in two societies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.

As a dedicated teacher, Dr. Gu mentors undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and visiting faculty and scientists. Dr. Gu not only focuses on scientific and technical quality, but also helps with career development and project management skills. Over the course of his career, Dr. Gu has mentored more than 40 postdoctoral associates and graduate students, including a recent winner of the ORNL Environmental Science Division’s Outstanding Postdoctoral Award, Ziming Yang (now Assistant Professor at Oakland University).

He was named a corporate fellow in 2017.