Rula Deeb

Bioremediator

Walnut Creek, California resident Dr. Rula Deeb from the class of ’91 is passionate about her work as an environmental engineer. She develops new techniques and approaches to dealing with contaminates in water: “I love what I do. It’s very important to me and I’m very devoted to it,” says Deeb, who graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1991 with a degree in math and chemistry. “I’ve really found a good balance in my work.”

At seventeen she left her native country of Lebanon to attend Warren Wilson because of the nation’s civil war. Once at school, Deeb threw herself into her studies and slew of extracurricular activities to distract herself from the harsh reality at home. “I might have locked my door and studied at any other school,” says Deeb, whose brother and sister also attended the College. “But [Warren Wilson] was such a friendly and welcoming place that it took my mind off the trouble in Lebanon.”

After graduating from Warren Wilson with the highest student award, the Pfaff Cup, Deeb was chosen for a position at the United Nations organizing conferences and seminars on peace and the environmental issues. At the time, the UN was preparing to host the Earth Summit in Brazil. That movement inspired her to connect her future studies with real environmental problems. “I wanted to do some kind of engineering that would benefit the environment,” recalls Deeb.

Today, she is doing just that—taking obscure scientific research and applying it to tangible environmental problems. Her work has ranged from studying the impact of highway construction on municipal water supplies to investigating strategies to recycle waste water for indirect potable uses. She is best known for her work in bioremediation—the process of using microorganisms to destroy harmful water contaminates.

For innovation and leadership in her field, she was presented the 2007 Berkeley Engineering Alumni—Outstanding Young Leader Award.

Although her job involves plenty of research and complex projects to apply her know-how, she is also committed to mentoring younger engineers and inspiring future ones. While technical expertise is necessary, she hopes that students today will value an open-minded and broad education—like the one she received at Warren Wilson. “Academics will only get you so far. Nothing prepares you for the world like an education for the whole person. That is the most important piece of my entire education.”