Gray elected to National Academy of Engineering

February 22, 2018

Dr. William Gray

Dr. William Gray

William G. Gray, PhD, professor from 2003 to 2014 and now research professor of environmental sciences and engineering in the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Gray also is adjunct professor in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum in environment and ecology.

Election to the Academy is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education.

Gray was recognized specifically for his theoretical work to develop improved approaches for modeling flow and transport phenomena in porous media systems, such as those beneath the earth’s surface – surface waters carrying sediments, filters, catalytic systems, hydrogen fuel cells, membranes and other applications.

Cass T. Miller, PhD,  Okun Distinguished Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and colleague of Gray’s, noted that recent applications of Gray’s theory include biomedical applications, such as tumor growth and treatment.

“Understanding and mathematically modeling porous medium systems is important for environmental engineers and is an important part of the curriculum at UNC,” Miller said. “In addition to Professor Gray’s outstanding research contributions, he is a superb teacher and has won many awards for his excellence in engineering education.”

Only a few from the University of North Carolina have been honored with the prestigious membership. Among them were two others from the Gillings School’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering – Dan Okun, PhD, chair of the department from 1955 to 1973, and Phil Singer, PhD, professor emeritus.

Okun was hailed worldwide for his groundbreaking work in identifying pristine water sources (including Chapel Hill’s Cane Creek Reservoir), water management, water supply, pollution control, water reclamation and reuse, and watershed protection issues. Singer devoted his career to increasing knowledge of water chemistry and drinking water treatment.

Gray continues to conduct cutting-edge research through his current Gillings School appointment as research professor and as adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Vermont at Burlington. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering at Princeton University and served on the faculties of Princeton (1975-1984) and Notre Dame (1984-2003) before joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty in 2003.

Gray has authored more than 140 scholarly papers and nine books. He served as editor of two journals, Water Resources Research (2000-2004) and Advances in Water Resources (1985-1997), and on the editorial boards of seven others.

At UNC, he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in environmental modeling, environmental physics, thermodynamics, and multiphase transport phenomena, until retiring from his full-time professorship in 2014.

Barbara J. Turpin, PhD, professor and chair of environmental sciences and engineering, commended the “plethora of environmental and medical applications” of Gray’s advanced theory on flow through porous media.

“Our department has benefited from Dr. Gray’s work and his close collaboration with his colleague, Dr. Cass Miller,” Turpin said.

This year, the Academy elected 83 new national members and 16 foreign members, according to an announcement made by the organization on Feb. 7. Those additions bring the total U.S. membership to 2,293, and the number of foreign members to 262.

Newly elected members will be inducted during a ceremony at the Academy’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30.

Among Gray’s fellow inductees are Jeff Bezos, president, chief executive officer and chair of and founder and chief executive officer of Blue Origin LLC, for leadership and innovation in space exploration, autonomous systems and building a commercial pathway for human space flight; Mary Barra, chair and chief executive officer of General Motors Co., for leadership in automotive manufacturing and product engineering and development, and Diane Green, chief executive officer of Google Cloud, for contributions in transforming virtualization from a concept to an industry.


Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or

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