Meet new Mitchell Center member Onur Apul

Mitchell Center members share a passion for tackling complex sustainability problems that matter to people and communities through collaboration with diverse stakeholders and across many different areas of expertise. They come from a wide range of disciplines—from engineering and economics to fisheries and agriculture to business and communication—and take an interdisciplinary approach because that’s what’s needed to meet today’s challenges. They seek to connect knowledge with action to create a brighter social, environmental, and economic future in Maine and beyond.

Learn more about who they are and what they do in this ongoing series of profiles.

Onur Apul headshot

Onur Apul is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maine. He has published nearly 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, submitted five patent applications, and has given numerous presentations including invited keynote lectures and talks at national and international meetings. He has been recognized with awards for his research and teaching including the prestigious L.G. Rich Award from the Water Environment Association.

Dr. Apul’s research focuses on responsibly harvesting nanotechnology to advance safe and sustainable water treatment. He investigates molecular-level interactions at the boundary layers to help tackle emerging environmental concerns (such as PFAS in drinking water sources or microplastics in coastal ecosystems).

Find out more about Dr. Apul’s work at

What problem/s are you working to solve?

I am trying to solve contemporary issues about drinking water treatment. Ever-increasing human population and anthropogenic activity lead to an influx of pollutants into the aquatic environment at an alarming rate. Therefore, this new and complex problem requires creative and novel water treatment strategies.  

What progress are you making toward solutions?

I invest my time to improve the application potential of nano-scale reusable carbonaceous adsorbents and nano-scale gas bubbles.

“Interactions with other disciplines and viewpoints from different stakeholders could create solutions that might not be possible without collaboration.”

How could your work contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?

Besides improving water treatment processes, both carbon nanomaterials and nanobubbles could be applied in various Maine industries that require effective manipulation of water quality, e.g., aquaculture, and pulp and paper wastewater treatment. The transformative and efficient nature of these nano-scale solutions may also lead to advanced water treatment processes and assist people in unconventional situations such as water treatment in space stations or disaster zones, or even direct wastewater reuse.

Why did you decide to join the Mitchell Center?

The Mitchell Center offers a unique platform to connect a wide variety of stakeholders about water sustainability in Maine. These community partners can either influence my decisions for my research program, or my work can (in)directly impact them. Therefore, the holistic approach of the Mitchell Center is beneficial to my ongoing research.

What’s the best part about collaborating with other researchers, and with stakeholders?

Interactions with other disciplines and viewpoints from different stakeholders could create solutions that might not be possible without collaboration.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?

I have not had enough time to explore Maine yet. But I like Portland and Bar Harbor.

What sustains you?

My purpose in life is growth so I pursue growth opportunities, which sustains me. This applies to my personal and professional life.