April Gu

Environmental Engineering


April Z. Gu joined the Cornell faculty in 2018. Gu received her B.S. in Environmental Engineering and Science from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, jointly in Microbiology, from the University of Washington, US. She worked as a process engineer and research scientist for HDR Engineering, specializing in water and wastewater treatment processes design for three years before she returned to academia. Gu’s major research interest involves understanding and applying biological agents (e.g. microorganisms) and their functions to detect, transform or mitigate environmental pollutants in both natural and engineered systems. Gu was a faculty member in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Northeastern University from 2006 to 2017. She stays active in both academic societies and water professional organizations and has served on various committees for IWA, WEF, ACS and AEESP.

Research Interests

Gu’s general research is in water quality and environmental health. She specifically focuses on the following areas: (1) apply biotechnology to improve and develop more sustainable wastewater treatment and remediation processes to maximize nutrient recovery and, minimize the energy consumption and carbon footprint; (i) investigate the impact of climate change on global phosphorus cycling, particularly biological processes, and  associated implications in phosphorus utilization efficiency in agriculture; (iii) develop next-generation toxicogenomics-based toxicity assessment technology platform, in combination with data science, to enable risk-based water quality monitoring and technology efficacy assessment, and to elucidate the causal environmental matrices.

Teaching Interests

April Gu believes that teaching is a creative act based on passion and dedication; as it requires a variety of skills, strategies and visions. Besides the transferring of knowledge of fundamental concepts and theories, key goals of effective teaching are to generate motivation among the students to learn and develop independent thinking and analytical reasoning. She values the rigorousness in fundamental science and engineering teaching and therefore emphasizing on structured, yet integrative and complex problem-solving orientated curriculum design.

Her experiences in industry have cultivated her the recognition and appreciation of the importance of knowledge translation. April has taught Environmental Biological Processes, Water and Wastewater Treatment Processes, Water Engineering, Resources and Energy Recovery and Fluid Mechanics at Northeastern University. At Cornell, Gu will likely be teaching: Microbiology for Environmental Engineering, Biological Processes, Special Topics in Environmental Engineering.

Selected Publications

  • Li, Dan; zeng, siyu; He, Miao; Gu, April  Z. “Water Disinfection Byproducts Induce Antibiotic Resistance-Role of Environmental Pollutants in Resistance Phenomena” Environmental Science & Technology 2016, 50 (6):3193-3201.
  • Lan, Jiaqi; Gou, Na; Rahman, Sheikh; Gao, Ce; He, Miao; Gu, April Z.  “A Quantitative Toxicogenomics Assay for High-throughput and Mechanistic Genotoxicity Assessment and Screening of Environmental Pollutants” Environmental Science & Technology 2016, 50 (6), pp 3202–3214.
  • Gao Ce, Weisman David, Lan JiaQi, Gou Na and Gu April Z. “Toxicity Mechanisms Identification via Gene Set Enrichment Analysis of Time-Series Toxicogenomics Data: Impact of Time and Concentration” Environmental Science & Technology 2015, 49 (7), 4618–4626
  • Na Gou, Songhu Yuan, Jiaqi Lan, Ce Gao, Akram N. Alshawabkeh, and A.Z. Gu “Quantitative Toxicogenomics Assay Reveals the Evolution and Nature of Toxicity during the Transformation of Environmental Pollutants”. Environmental Science and Technology, 2014:48(15) 8855-8863.
  • Yueyun Li, Xin Wang, Annalisa Onnis-Hayden, Kai-Tak Wan and April Z. Gu. “ Universal Quantifier Derived from AFM Analysis Links Cellular Mechanical Properties and Cell-Surface Integration Forces with Microbial Deposition and Transport Behavior.” Environmental Science & Technology, 2014, 48(3): 1769-1778.
  • Gou N, Gu AZ, “A New Transcriptional Effect Level Index (TELI) for Toxicogenomics-based Toxicity Assessment,” Environmental Science & Technology, 2011, 45(12), pp. 5410-5417.
  • Onnis-Hayden A, Majed N, Schramm A, Gu AZ, “Process Optimization By Decoupled Control of Key Microbial Populations: Distribution of Activity and Abundance of Polyphosphate-Accumulating Organisms and Nitrifying Populations in A Full-Scale IFAS-EBPR Plant,” Water Research, 2011, 45(13), pp. 3845-3854.
  • Nehreen Majed, Tatyana Chernenko, Max Diem and April Z. Gu. “Identification of Functionally Relevant Populations in Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal Processes Based On Intracellular Polymers Profiles and Insights into the Metabolic Diversity and Heterogeneity.” Environmental Science & Technology, 2012, 46(9): 5010-501

Selected Awards and Honors

  • 2017 Fellow, Water and Environment Federation (WEF)
  • 2017 Excellence in Mentoring Award, College of Engineering, Northeastern University
  • 2014 Faculty Fellowship Award For Outstanding Achievements, College of Engineering, Northeastern University
  • 2011 Søren Buus Outstanding Research Award, College of Engineering, Northeastern University
  • 2009 Faculty Early CAREER Development Award, National Science Foundation.
  • 2005 National Pathfinder Award for Creativity, HDR Engineering Inc.


  • PhD, Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2003
  • MS, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 1997
  • BS, (Five-year Diploma), Environmental Engineering and Science, TsingHua University, Beijing, China, 1993