Monroe Weber-Shirk

Monroe Weber-Shirk

Senior Research Associate
Civil and Environmental Engineering


Dr. Monroe Weber-Shirk received his PhD in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University in 1992. His experiences working in Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras helped shape his interest in sustainable technologies for safe drinking water. In 2005 he founded the AguaClara program to address the need for sustainable municipal scale water treatment in resource poor communities. His investigations of the widespread failure of automated and mechanized water treatment plants have provided the impetus to develop a new approach to solve this global infrastructure problem. He has guided the AguaClara team to invent a series of technologies that together make it possible to produce safe drinking water without using any electricity. He organized the AguaClara program to engage students to conduct research and create a free online water treatment plant design tool. He works to empower partner organizations that in turn empower communities to build, operate, and sustain their AguaClara water treatment plants. His research team is investigating methods to improve performance and reduce the cost of drinking water treatment. He guides students using a combination of peer-based, project-based, and lecture formats.

Research Interests

Dr. Weber-Shirk directs a team of 50 students to research the fundamental mechanisms of flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and gravity powered chemical dosing. The research is driven by the need for a new way of providing drinking water that does not require external power sources and that has a high reliability. The research team has invented a series of new technologies and has created a whole new approach to municipal drinking water treatment.

Research Group Members

Teaching Interests

Dr. Weber-Shirk creates a safe place for students to ask questions and to learn. He introduces students to the limitations of our current knowledge and guides students to generate new knowledge. He encourages all students to participate in the discovery process whether they are PH.D. candidates or first year undergraduates.

Selected Publications

  • Sun, S., M. Weber-Shirk, L W Lion.  2015. "Characterization of Flocs and Floc Size Distributions Using Image Analysis."  Environmental engineering science.
  • Weber-Shirk, M L., L W Lion.  2015. "Fractal Models for Floc Density, Sedimentation Velocity, and Floc Volume Fraction for High Peclet Number Reactors."  Environmental engineering science 32 (12): 978-982.
  • Kelley, C., A. Krolick, L. Brunner, A. Burklund, D. Kahn, W. Ball, M Weber-Shirk.  2014. "An Affordable Open-Source Turbidimeter."Sensors 14 (4): 7142-7155.
  • Swetland, Karen A., Monroe Weber-Shirk, Leonard W Lion.  2014. "Flocculation-Sedimentation Performance Model for Laminar-Flow Hydraulic Flocculation with Polyaluminum Chloride and Aluminum Sulfate Coagulants."  Journal of environmental engineering (New York, N.Y.).
  • Rivas, M. G., K. Beers, M. E. Warner, Monroe Weber-Shirk.  2014. "Analyzing the potential of community water systems: the case of AguaClara."  Water Policy 16 (3): 557-577.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Rudolph Hering Medal 2015
  • John Swanson'61 College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Award (Cornell College of Engineering) 2013
  • Katerva Award for the category of Urban Design (Katerva) 2013
  • the National Academy of Engineering recognized AguaClara as an exemplary program that "infuses real world experience into engineering education." 2012
  • Intel Environment Tech Award (Intel) 2011


Research Group Members

Graduate Students