Professor of Soil Sciences
College of Agricultural & Life Sciences
Phil Barak teaches soil chemistry, mineralogy, and element cycling in the introductory soil science course for soils and allied majors. He also teaches a soil fertility and fertilizers course for advanced undergraduate and graduate students from horticulture, agronomy, and soil science.
In recent years, the central focus of Barak's research program has been the recovery of plant nutrients from wastewater in forms that can be sustainably returned to agriculture. This work has taken him from molecular templates for crystallization of ammonium magnesium phosphate, struvite, in the lab toward recovery of phosphate in the form of the calcium phosphate mineral, brushite, at commercial scales from wastewater treatment plants. More recently, Barak has taken an interest in nitrogen recovery from wastewater of various types – municipal treatment plants, manure lagoons and food processing – to recover ammonium nitrogen by electrodialysis for return to agriculture. For the past 18 years, Barak has curated the Virtual Museum of Minerals and Molecules, an online resource for the molecular visualization of molecules and minerals of interest to soil and environmental sciences.