Luke H. MacDonald

Research and Professional Interests

Dr. MacDonald is the Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Water Institute.  He received his PhD in 2010 from Princeton University in Civil and Environmental Engineering, where his research focused biogeochemical controls of contaminant transport, rural defluoridation strategies for India, and global water policy. Dr. MacDonald joined the former Global Water Program, which has now evolved into the Water Institute, and is a multidisciplinary research enterprise, out of a belief that water lies at the intersection of engineering, science, policy, and public health, and that we cannot solve problems in one area without addressing the others.    

Biogeochemistry describes the interactions between living organisms, minerals, and dissolved chemicals in the environment, and Dr. MacDonald has experience studying the role of iron oxides in controlling the behavior of arsenic. This work includes the study of fundamental kinetics of bacterially-driven iron reduction, the influence of flooding cycles and iron oxides on arsenic retention in contaminated, planted mesocosm experiments, and field validation of redox controls on arsenic mobility in an industrially contaminated wetland.   In many places throughout the world, such environmental transport mechanisms of arsenic links to drinking water supply contamination in groundwater, posing a public health hazard to millions of people. To address the health of the environment, therefore, is to address our own health.  

Like the arsenic problem, drinking groundwater sources with naturally high levels of fluoride can cause debilitating skeletal and dental fluorosis throughout the world. Fluoride problems in many parts of India are severe, and Dr. MacDonald has worked to develop a prototype filtration technology with the potential to lead to an effective, sustainable treatment strategy to halt the fluorosis endemic in rural villages.   

 Dr. MacDonald has received numerous fellowships and honors, including the EPA STAR Graduate Fellowship, Upton Fellowship the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, the National Waters Research Institute Fellowship, the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute Fellowship, and the Princeton Environmental Institute Fellowship in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy.  He was the co-author of an ENVIRON Foundation grant for fluoride mitigation and has participated in the Microbial Diversity Course in the Marine Biology Lab at Woods Hole, MA.  

Selected Publications:

  • MacDonald, L., G. Pathak, B. Singer, and P. R. Jaffé (2010) An integrated approach to address endemic fluorosis in Jharkhand, India, In Review.
  • MacDonald,L. H.S. Moon, and P. R. Jaffé (2010). The role of biomass, electron shuttles, and ferrous iron in the kinetics of Geobacter sulfurreducens-mediated ferrihydrite reduction, In Review.
  • MacDonald, L. (2008) Phosphate and arsenic sequestration on iron oxides: The influence of iron reducing bacteria on phosphate and arsenic detention and release rates. National Water Resources Research Institute. 2nd annual Fellowship Conference Proceedings. Washington, DC.
  • MacDonald, L., B. H. Singer, M. Oppenheimer, and P. R. Jaffé (2008). Putting some teeth into the International Health Regulations. Safe and Sustainable Drinking Water in Developing and Developed Countries: Where Science Meets Policy. UNC-Chapel Hill

Regional Experience:

South Asia: India; West Africa: Ghana; North America:USA (New Jersey)

Regional Experience:

South Asia: India; West Africa: Ghana; North America:USA (New Jersey)

Magazine Articles:

Themes Categories:

Water and Health
Water in the Environment
Water Infrastructure

People Categories:

Leadership Committee
NSF IGERT Participant
Magazine Author
Magazine Editor

Issue Categories:

Emerging contaminants
Water challenges and solutions
Weekly posts


Water purification, Integrated approach, Fluoride, Arsenic, Global governance, Environmental chemistry, Redox reactions