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Desirée Plata

Gilbert W. Winslow Career Development Professor in Civil Engineering Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; MIT School of Engineering

Desirée Plata

Desirée Plata is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Her research focuses on environmental chemistry, environmentally and economically sustainable design, and industrially-important processes and materials, with a particular focus on energy technologies and advanced materials synthesis. Her work in the area of environmental chemistry has applications in minimizing the environmental impact of emerging industries. She has made fundamental contributions to the field of heterogeneous catalysis with respect to the bond-building mechanisms in carbon nanotube synthesis, which can be leveraged to lessen environmental impacts of the process, as well as novel understanding of the environmental fate of carbon-based materials (e.g., from plastics to horizontal drilling fluids).

A central tenant of Plata's work for over a decade has been that academic researchers in environmental science should be partnering with industry to solve important environmental challenges. She is a co-founder of two climate and energy related startups: Nth Cycle and Moxair.

Plata proudly attended Gould Academy (1999) for high school, earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Union College (2003) and her doctoral degree in Chemical Oceanography and Environmental Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Joint Program in Oceanography (2009). Plata is an NSF CAREER Awardee (2016), an Odebrecht-Braskem Sustainable Innovation Awardee (2015), a two-time National Academy of Engineers Frontiers of Engineering Fellow (2012, 2020), a two-time National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow (2011, 2013), a Caltech Resnick Sustainability Fellow (2017), and MIT’s Junior Bose Teaching Awardee (2019). She previously served as Assistant Professor in Duke’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yale’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and as Assistant Director for Research at the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University.

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