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.  

In collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population Family, and Reproductive Health, Dr. MacDonald is part of the Performance Monitoring and Accountability project (PMA2020), a five-year global project that uses innovative mobile technology to support low-cost, rapid turnaround, nationally representative surveys monitoring key indicators for family planning, and water, sanitation and health.  Along with Dr. Kellogg Schwab, Dr. MacDonald co-leads the mWASH study (mobile Water Sanitation and Hygiene), an ongoing national monitoring program in seven countries that examines a variety of new and old water, sanitation, and hygiene indicators in households, among women, and at health care facilities. In that role, he is responsible for designing and maintaining the smart-phone based mobile data collection platform, designing the mWASH study questions, and analyzing and disseminating mWASH results.

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, Luke H., Jeffery S. Paull, and Peter R. Jaffé. "Enhanced semipermanent dialysis samplers for long-term environmental monitoring in saturated sediments." Environmental monitoring and assessment 185, no. 5 (2013): 3613-3624.
  • Julian, Timothy R., Luke H. MacDonald, Yayi Guo, Sara J. Marks, Margaret Kosek, Pablo P. Yori, Silvia Rengifo Pinedo, and Kellogg J. Schwab. "Fecal Indicator Bacteria Contamination of Fomites and Household Demand for Surface Disinfection Products: A Case Study from Peru." The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 89, no. 5 (2013): 869-872.
  • MacDonald, Luke H., Hee Sun Moon, and Peter R. Jaffé. "The role of biomass, electron shuttles, and ferrous iron in the kinetics of Geobacter sulfurreducens-mediated ferrihydrite reduction." Water research 45, no. 3 (2011): 1049-1062.
  • Luke H, MacDonald, Pathak Gopal, Singer Burton, and Jaffé Peter R. "An Integrated Approach to Address Endemic Fluorosis in Jharkhand, India." Journal of Water Resource and Protection 2011 (2011).
  • MacDonald, Luke H. Microbiological and plant-driven redox systems in groundwater and links between water, health, and policy. Princeton University, 2010.

Regional Experience:

  • Asia: India; Bangladesh
  • Africa: Ghana; Burkina Faso; Nigeria; Ethiopia; Uganda; Kenya
  • Latin America: San Salvador; Honduras; Peru
  • North America:USA (New Jersey) 

JHU Water Magazine articles authored and edited:

Themes Categories:

Water and Health
Water in the Environment
Water Infrastructure

People Categories:

Leadership Committee
Steering Committee
NSF IGERT Participant
Magazine Author
Magazine Editor

Issue Categories:

Emerging contaminants
Water challenges and solutions
Weekly posts


Luke MacDonald, Biogeochemistry, deputy director, mobile monitoring technology