Portrait of Prof. Nickolas Themelis  

Nickolas J. Themelis


926D S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4721

Tel(212) 854-2138
Fax(212) 854-7061

Research Interests

Technology, policy, and economic tools that will reduce landfilling in the U.S. (currently 90% of post recycling wastes are disposed in landfills), Latin America, and Asia.

Nickolas J. Themelis directs graduate research in the area of sustainable waste management, which includes ways to reduce the use of materials, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery, and sanitary landfilling of non-recyclable and non-combustible materials. He is the author or co-author of hundreds of papers and books on this subject, including the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), the Encyclopedia of Sustainability of Science and Technology (Springer pub.) and Renewable Energy Sources (Springer pub.). At Columbia University, he has been Chair of the School of Mines and, later, first Chair of the new Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering. He is founder of Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center and of the Global WTERT Council (GWC; www.wtert.org) with sister organizations in fourteen nations, including China and India. 

At this time his primary research interests lie in the development of waste-to-energy processes that can be affordable in developing countries. For this work, he has been honored with outstanding contribution awards by the Materials and Energy Recovery Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME, 2011) and the Confederation of European Waste to Energy Plants (CEWEP, 2016). Prof. Themelis is member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

Themelis received a BS in chemical engineering and a PhD in chemical metallurgy (1961) from McGill University (Montreal, Canada). He is the recipient of many scientific awards and a fellow of several U.S. and Canadian societies.   


  • Founder and Director, Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University (1997-present)
  • Professor, Metallurgical Engineering, Columbia, 1980-2007
  • Vice President Technology, Kennecott Copper Corp. (NYC), 1976-1980
  • Vice President, Research, Engineering and Computing, Metal Mining Division, Kennecott Copper Corp. (NYC and Salt Lake City, 1976-1980
  • Associate Director, Noranda Research Center, Pointe Claire, Quebec, Canada, 1962-1972
  • Chair of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 2005-2010; 2016–
  • Samuel Ruben–Peter G. Viele Professor of Electrochemistry, Columbia University, 2008–
  • Professor of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 2002-
  • Professor of earth and environmental engineering, Columbia University, 2016-
  • Associate professor of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 1995–2002
  • Assistant professor of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 1992–1995


  • National Academy of Engineering (U.S.)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • Global WTERT Council


  • Phoenix Award of the Confederation of European WTE Plants (CEWEP; 2016)
  • Nickolas J. Themelis Pyrometallurgy Symposium of Copper International Conference, Santiago, Chile (December 2013).
  • Medal of Achievement of Solid Wastes Processing Division, American Sociwety of Mechanical Engineers (May 2008). 
  • Honorary Member of the Japan Institute of Metals (March 2006) 
  • Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award  of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) (March 2004).


  • Henri Dwyer and Nickolas J. Themelis, Inventory of U.S. 2012 dioxin emissions to atmosphere, Waste Management, (August 2015) (2015) www.seas.columbia.edu/earth/wtert/sofos/Dwyer%20Thesis.pdf
  • Bourtsalas, L. Vandeperre, S. Grimes, N. Themelis, R. Koralewska, C. Cheeseman (2015): “Beneficial reuse of the fine fraction of incinerator bottom ash from a dry discharge system in the manufacture of pyroxene ceramics: ”Waste Management & Research”
  • N. Chatziaras ,  C.S. Psomopoulos ,  N.J. Themelis ,  (2016):  "Use of waste derived  fuels in cement industry”,  Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 27, pp.178 -193.
  • N. J. Themelis and Dolly Shin, “Survey of MSW Generation and Disposition in the U.S., MSW Management (Nov. 2015).
  • Themelis, N.J., Arsova, L., Calculating tons to composting in the U.S., BioCycle, 56 (2), pp. 27-29 (2015)
  • Vardelle, A., Moreau, C., Themelis, N.J., Chazelas, C., A Perspective on Plasma Spray Technology (2014) Plasma Chemistry and Plasma Processing, 19 p. Article in Press. http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84916620057&partnerID...
  • Bourtsalas, A., Vandeperre, L.J., Grimes, S.M., Themelis, N., Cheeseman, C.R.
  • Production of pyroxene ceramics from the fine fraction of incinerator bottom, Waste Management (2014) http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84924022594&partnerID...
  • Psomopoulos, C.S., Venetis, I., Themelis, N.J., Impact from implementation of WTE to the economy of Greece (2014) Fresenius Environmental Bulletin, 23 (11), pp. 2735-2741 http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84927732019&partnerID...
  • Lusardi, M.R., Kohn, M., Themelis, N.J., Castaldi, M.J.. “The CLEERGAS moving grate process for energy generation from municipal solid waste (2014) Waste Management and Research, 32 (8), pp. 772-781 http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?eid=2-s2.0-84906725153&partnerID...