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Joe Brown - Georgia Tech College of Engineering. Atlanta, GA, US

Joe Brown

Assistant Professor, Environmental Engineering | Georgia Tech College of Engineering


Joe Brown’s research interests include water infrastructure sustainability and detection methods for pathogens in the environment.



Joe Brown is an assistant professor in environmental engineering. Brown comes to Georgia Tech from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he served as a lecturer in the Department of Disease Control, Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases. Brown’s research and teaching interests are at the intersection of environmental engineering and public health, including water infrastructure sustainability, detection methods for pathogens and pathogen indicators in the environment, water treatment technology characterization and innovation, and human health effects of exposure to waterborne pathogens. He is a Professional Engineer (PE) with licensure in North Carolina and Alabama.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Water and Wastewater Microbiology

Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment

Engineering Applications in Underserved Communities


Selected Accomplishments (5)

Women in Engineering (WIE) Faculty Teaching Award, Georgia Institute of Technology




CEE Excellence in Research Program Development Award


Young Future Leaders, STS Forum, National Academies


Selected participant, Chinese-American Frontiers of Engineering, National Academies


Education (3)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Ph.D., Environmental Sciences and Engineering 2007

University of Cambridge: M.Phil., Environment and Development 2003

University of Alabama: B.S., Civil and Environmental Engineering 2001

Selected Articles (5)

Selecting household water treatment options on the basis of World Health Organization performance testing protocols

Environmental Science & Technology

Aaron Bivins, Nikki Beetsch, Batsirai Majuru, Maggie Montgomery, Trent Sumner, Joe Brown

2019 The World Health Organization’s International Scheme to Evaluate Household Water Treatment Technologies serves to benchmark microbiological performance of existing and novel technologies and processes for small-scale drinking water treatment according to a tiered system. There is widespread uncertainty around which tiers of performance are most appropriate for technology selection and recommendation in humanitarian response or for routine safe water programming. We used quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) to evaluate attributable reductions in diarrheal disease burden associated with water treatment technologies meeting the three tiers of performance under this Scheme, across a range of conditions. According to mean estimates and under most modeling conditions, potential health gains attributable to microbiologically improved drinking water are realized at the middle tier of performance: “comprehensive protection: high pathogen removal (★★)” for each reference pathogen. The highest tier of performance may yield additional marginal health gains where untreated water is especially contaminated and where adherence is 100%. Our results highlight that health gains from improved efficacy of household water treatment technology remain marginal when adherence is less than 90%. While selection of water treatment technologies that meet minimum WHO efficacy recommendations for comprehensive protection against waterborne pathogens is critical, additional criteria for technology choice and recommendation should focus on potential for correct, consistent, and sustained use.

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The Critical Role of Compliance in Delivering Health Gains from Environmental Health Interventions

The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Joe Brown, Michael AL Hayashi, Joseph NS Eisenberg

2019 Gains in reducing childhood disease burden rely heavily on effective means of preventing environmental exposures. For many environmental health interventions, such as point-of-use water treatment, sanitation, or cookstoves, exposures are strongly influenced by user behaviors and the degree to which participants adhere to the prescribed preventive measures. In this commentary, we articulate the need for increased attention on user behaviors—critically, the careful measurement and inclusion of compliance—to strengthen exposure assessment and health impact trials in environmental health intervention research. We focus here on water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions to illustrate the problem with the understanding that this issue extends to other environmental health interventions.

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Development and field testing of low‐cost, quantal microbial assays with volunteer reporting as scalable means of drinking water safety estimation

Journal of Applied Microbiology

Andrew Loo, Aaron Bivins, Viji John, Samantha Becker, Shannon Evanchec, Alexandra George, Valeria Hernandez, Jean Mullaney, Lorenzo Tolentino, Rebecca Yoo, Pranav Nagarnaik, Pawan Labhasetwar, Joe Brown

2019 To evaluate a low‐cost water quality test for at‐scale drinking water safety estimation in rural India.

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Water quality risks of ‘improved’ water sources: evidence from Cambodia

Tropical Medicine & International Health

A. Shaheed, J. Orgill, C. Ratana, M. A. Montgomery, M. A. Jeuland, J. Brown

2013 The objective of this study was to investigate the quality of on‐plot piped water and rainwater at the point of consumption in an area with rapidly expanding coverage of ‘improved’ water sources.

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Hydrate morphology: Physical properties of sands with patchy hydrate saturation

Journal of Geophysical Research

S Dai, JC Santamarina, WF Waite, TJ Kneafsey

2012 The physical properties of gas hydrate‐bearing sediments depend on the volume fraction and spatial distribution of the hydrate phase. The host sediment grain size and the state of effective stress determine the hydrate morphology in sediments; this information can be used to significantly constrain estimates of the physical properties of hydrate‐bearing sediments, including the coarse‐grained sands subjected to high effective stress that are of interest as potential energy resources. Reported data and physical analyses suggest hydrate‐bearing sands contain a heterogeneous, patchy hydrate distribution, whereby zones with 100% pore‐space hydrate saturation are embedded in hydrate‐free sand. Accounting for patchy rather than homogeneous hydrate distribution yields more tightly constrained estimates of physical properties in hydrate‐bearing sands and captures observed physical‐property dependencies on hydrate saturation. For example, numerical modeling results of sands with patchy saturation agree with experimental observation, showing a transition in stiffness starting near the series bound at low hydrate saturations but moving toward the parallel bound at high hydrate saturations. The hydrate‐patch size itself impacts the physical properties of hydrate‐bearing sediments; for example, at constant hydrate saturation, we find that conductivity (electrical, hydraulic and thermal) increases as the number of hydrate‐saturated patches increases. This increase reflects the larger number of conductive flow paths that exist in specimens with many small hydrate‐saturated patches in comparison to specimens in which a few large hydrate saturated patches can block flow over a significant cross‐section of the specimen.

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