Say Kee Ong


Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering


422 Town Engr
813 Bissell Rd
Ames, IA 50011-1066


Honors and Awards

  • Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Faculty Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2020
  • Cerwick Faculty Professorship (2014 – 2019)
  • Regents Award for Faculty Excellence, 2018
  • Erskine Fellow, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 2011
  • Water Environment Federation (WEF) McKee Groundwater Protection, Restoration or Sustainable Use Medal, 2008
  • Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Outstanding Teaching Award, 2005
  • Montgomery-Watson-Harza/Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Master’s Thesis Award, First Place (Student – Angela Kolz), 2005
  • Annual Metcalf & Eddy Environmental Engineering Design Competition, First Place, Academic Advisor to Undergraduate Design Team (Tom Bruton, Iris Caldwell and Stephanie Peters), 2005
  • ISU Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching, 2004
  • Montgomery-Watson/Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Master’s Thesis Award, First Place (Student – Shane W. Rogers), 2000


  • Ph.D. Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
  • M.S. Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University
  • B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Malaya

Interest Areas

Say Kee Ong’s research interests are in the fate and transport of pollutants in engineered and natural systems, sustainable water and wastewater treatment and reuse systems, and hazardous waste management.

Research Projects

  • Sustainable wastewater and water reuse systems with emphasis on recovery of nutrients and useful products
  • Sorption and degradation of micro-pollutants and removal of heavy metals from soils, surface waters and in wastewater treatment systems
  • Progressive freeze concentration (PFC) process for water recovery and salt concentration
  • Membrane bioreactors (MBR) and biological aerated filters (BAF) for wastewater treatment and micro-pollutants removal
  • Bioremediation of petroleum-contaminated and former manufactured gas plant sites and application of natural attenuation



  1. Romal, J.R.A., S.K. Ong, 2024, Opportunity for a greener recovery of dysprosium(III) from secondary sources by a novel Mannich-reaction-modified phosphorylated chitosan hydrogel, Int’l J. of Biological Macromolecules, 267, Part 1, 131449  DOI:
  2. Croll, H.K., K. Ikuma, S.K. Ong, S. Sarkar, 2023, Systematic performance evaluation of reinforcement learning algorithms applied to wastewater treatment control optimization, Environ. Sci. and Technol., 27(46): 18382 – 18390.  DOI:
  3. Croll, H.K., K. Ikuma, S.K. Ong, S. Sarkar, 2023, Reinforcement learning applied to wastewater treatment process control optimization: Approaches, challenges, and path forward, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology  3(2):1775 – 1795
  4. Romal, J.R.A., S.K. Ong, 2023, Marine polysaccharide-based hydrogels for critical materials selective removal and recovery:  A review, Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 482, 215054
  5. Romal, J.R.A., S.K. Ong, 2023, Extending the library of 4-hydroxycoumarin derivatives with potential pharmacological activity by a catalyst-free and purification-free method, ChemistrySelect.
  6. Romal, J.R.A., S.K. Ong, 2023, Single step fabrication of a dual-sensitive chitosan hydrogel by C-Mannich reaction: Synthesis, physicochemical properties, and screening of its Cu2+ uptake, Processes 2023, 11, 354.
  7. Moharramzadeh, S., S.K. Ong, J. Alleman, K. Cetin, 2022, Stabilization and concentration of nitrogen in synthetic urine with peracetic acid and progressive freeze concentration, J. of Environmental Chemical Engineering, 10(3),
  8. Brown, P., K. Ikuma, S.K. Ong, 2022, Biological phosphorus removal and its micorbial community in a modified full-sale activated sludge system under dry and wet weather dynamics, Water Research. 217, 
  9. Moharramzadeh, S., S.K. Ong, J. Alleman, K. Cetin, 2021, Parametric study of the progressive freeze concentration for desalination, Desalination, 510. 115077.
  10. Shi, G., S.K. Ong, 2021. Oxidation of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4 D) by persulfate or peroxymonosulfate with iron(II) as an activator, ASCE J. of Hazardous, Toxic and Radioactive Waste Management. DOI 10.1061/(ASCE)HZ.2153-5515.0000645
  11. Waleeittikul, A., S. Chotpantarat, S.K. Ong, 2019, Impact of salinity level and flood irrigation on Cd mobility through a Cd-contaminated soil, Thailand: experimental and modeling techniques, J. Soils and Sediments. 19:2357-2373.
  12. Law, J.Y., M.L. Soupir, D.R. Raman, T.B. Moorman, S.K. Ong, 2018, Electrical stimulation for enhanced denitrification in woodchip bioreactors: Opportunities and challenges, J. Ecological Engineering, 110:38-47.
  13. Tian, Q., L. Zhuang, S.K. Ong, Q. Wang, K. Wang, X. Xie, Y. Zhu, F. Li, 2017,  Phosphorus (P) recovery coupled with increasing influent ammonium facilitated intracellular carbon source storage and simultaneous aerobic phosphorus & nitrogen removal, Water Research, 119: 267 – 275 (
  14. Tian, Q., S. K. Ong, X. Xie , F. Li, Y. Zhu, F. R. Wang, B. Yang, 2015, Enhanced phosphorus recovery and biofilm microbial community changes in an alternating anaerobic/aerobic biofilter, Chemosphere 144:1797-1806 (DOI:
  15. Sikkema, J. K., S. K. Ong, J. E. Alleman, 2015, Photocatalytic concrete pavements: Laboratory investigation of NO oxidation rate under varied environmental conditions, Construction and Building Materials, 100:305-314.
  16. Limpiyakorn, T., S. Homklin, and S. K. Ong, 2011, Fate of estrogens and estrogenic potential in sewerage systems, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 41(13):1231-1270 (DOI:

Primary Strategic Research Area

Resilient Infrastructures