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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2018 / March 

Marc Edwards to discuss importance of truth-seeking for scientists and engineers

March 12, 2018

Marc Edwards and doctoral student William Rhoads (left) examine pipes in a home in Flint, Michigan, in March 2016.
Marc Edwards and doctoral student William Rhoads (left) examine pipes in a home in Flint, Michigan, in March 2016.

Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards will discuss how he and his collaborators helped resolve water quality crises in Washington, D.C., and Flint, Michigan, as the featured speaker at the Del Alamo/Hogan Symposium on Business Ethics, hosted by the Pamplin College of Business on Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Graduate Life Center Auditorium.

In his talk, “Truth-Seeking in an Age of Tribalism: Lessons from the Flint Water Crisis and its Aftermath,” Edwards will emphasize the importance of truth-seeking by scientists and engineers and the need to “cultivate the scientist within all of us” in the face of obstacles posed by bureaucrats and others seeking to promote their own agendas.

The event is free and open to the public, no tickets needed. Parking information is available here.

Edwards is a University Distinguished Professor and the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil Engineering in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering. He teaches courses in environmental engineering, applied aquatic chemistry, and engineering ethics.

His research group seeks to pursue science as a public good through laboratory work on buildings and “opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens” – microbes that live in premise plumbing, the part of the water distribution system beyond the property line and that includes houses, office buildings, and hospitals.

The group’s work laid the groundwork for investigative science that uncovered the 2001-2004 D.C. lead crisis and the 2014-2016 Flint water disaster.

Edwards has received numerous major honors for his work, the most recent of which is the AAAS Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February 2018.

In 2016, he was selected for the TIME 100, Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. He was also among Fortune magazine’s world’s 50 greatest leaders; Politico magazine’s top 50 visionaries who have transformed American politics; and Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 world’s greatest thinkers. He was short-listed for Time’s 2016 Person(s) of the Year, along with other Flint whistleblowers.

In 2013, Edwards received the IEEE Barus Award for “courageously defending the public interest at great personal risk.” His paper on lead poisoning of children in Washington, D.C., due to elevated lead in drinking water, was judged the outstanding science paper in Environmental Science and Technology in 2010.

Earlier awards include a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007 and a Presidential Faculty Fellowship in 1996. Time Magazine dubbed Edwards “The Plumbing Professor” in 2004 and listed him among the four most important innovators in water from around the world.

A question-and-answer session, moderated by management professor Rich Wokutch, will follow the talk.

The symposium, which is in its 27th year, is supported by Pamplin alumni Robert F. Hogan Jr., who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting in 1978 and 1980, respectively, and Jorge Del Alamo Jr., who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1969, and his wife, Lin.

Additional sponsorship was provided by the Business Leadership Center of the Department of Management and by Partners in Financial Planning and Cherry Bekaert LLP.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Gina French at 540-231-5975, or email during regular business hours at least five business days prior to the event.

- Written by Barbara Micale