R.M. Parsons Laboratory
Environmental Science and Engineering
Email: pmgschwe@mit.edu
Bldg-Room 48-216
Phone: 617.253.1638
Website: The Gschwend Lab

Phil Gschwend

Ford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Philip Gschwend is the Ford Professor in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  He received his BS in Biology from Caltech, his PhD in Chemical Oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and had postdoctoral experience at MIT in Chemical Engineering and at Indiana University in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Professor Gschwend is an environmental organic chemist and geochemist who investigates the fates of organic compounds in the environment with the goals of assessing the risks they pose, informing effective remedial strategies, and anticipating unwanted effects from substances we may choose to make and use in the future.  His research interests focus on processes controlling transport of chemicals in environmental settings (e.g. sorption processes and roles of colloids and black carbons), passive sampling for contaminated sediment sites’ evaluations, and modeling fates of organic pollutants in the environment so as to enable quantitative assessments of food web and human exposures. Current projects investigate legacy pollutants such as PAHs, PCBs, and DDTs, and especially evaluate their bioavailability using passive samplers.  For this work, Dr. Gschwend group received a 2011 Project-of-the-Year award at the annual Partners in Environmental Technology Technical Symposium & Workshop held in Washington, D.C.  His research efforts also seek to anticipate future problems from synthetic estrogens discharged into coastal seawater and environmentally benign production of new organic materials like carbon nanotubes.

Professor Gschwend is co-author of the textbook:  Environmental Organic Chemistry by RP Schwarzenbach, PM Gschwend, & DM Imboden, 3rd edition, Wiley-Interscience, 2017.  He also received the Teaching Award from MIT’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering three times, both the 1995 Bose Award and the 2011 Samuel M. Seegal Prize for Excellence in Teaching from the School of Engineering of MIT, and the 2009 Frank E. Perkins Award for excellence in graduate student mentoring at MIT.  


  • 1973 B.S., California Institute of Technology
  • 1979 Ph.D., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Research Interests

  • Environmental organic chemistry; phase exchanges and transformation processes; modeling fates of organic pollutants; roles of colloids and black carbons; passive sampling for site evaluation.
  • see textbook:  Environmental Organic Chemistry by RP Schwarzenbach, PM Gschwend, & DM Imboden, 2nd edition, Wiley-Interscience, 2003.

Teaching Interests


1.83 Environmental Organic Chemistry (graduate)


1.107  Aquatic Chemistry and Biology Laboratory (undergraduate)


1.723  Subsurface Water Quality (graduate)


1.01J/10.27lJ  Environment and Technology (undergraduate)


1.096  Environmental Engineering Clinic (undergraduate)


1.016  Introduction to Environmental Engineering Science (undergraduate)


1.080  Environmental Chemistry and Biology (undergraduate)


1.107  Environmental Chemistry and Biology Laboratory (undergraduate)