The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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John Tobiason Takes over as New CEE Department Head

John Tobiason

John Tobiason

The Civil and Environmental (CEE) Department is quite fortunate to welcome Dr. John E. Tobiason, P.E., as its new department head. Tobiason has over 30 years of research and professional experience in water treatment with emphasis on particles in water, coagulation, and water filtration. He has been with the UMass CEE department since 1987 and is a faculty member in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program. See Full Curriculum Vitae.

As retiring CEE Department Head Richard Palmer says about Tobiason, “John is an outstanding choice for the CEE Department Head. He has compiled an exceptional record as a researcher, winning many national awards and publishing his research in the most outstanding journals in his field.” 

Palmer explains that Tobiason is often noted by past graduates as the most influential teacher they had at UMass. He has also served in national positions of leadership on important committees, including as president of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, on the Editorial Board of the American Water Works Association (AWWA), and on important National Academy of Sciences panels. 

“After performing a national search that identified other outstanding candidates,” says Palmer, “the department concluded that John was clearly the best choice to be department head in the coming years. That selection reflects the confidence and respect that the department has for John.” 

Professor Tobiason has published some 65 journal articles and book chapters, 50 conference proceedings papers, 26 technical reports, and he has given 78 invited presentations. In addition, he has received more than $9,337,000 in research grants as a principal investigator and $9,851,000 as a co-principal investigator, a record that is very impressive by any standard.

Tobiason teaches graduate level courses in Particles in Water, Drinking Water Treatment Processes, and Design.

Since its inception in 2004, Tobiason has also served as the faculty advisor for the Engineers Without Borders - UMass Student Chapter,  a student-run organization dedicated to helping local and international communities create sustainable, community-driven solutions in order to improve their quality of life. The chapter at UMass Amherst operates programs in Ghana and Kenya to help local people develop reliable and convenient water infrastructure projects.

As Palmer comments about Tobiason’s involvement with the chapter, “He helped establish our local chapter of our Engineers Without Borders and, working with UMass students, has guided numerous projects that provide clean, safe water to rural communities in Africa.” 

Recently Tobiason was awarded the 2019 Charles R. O’Melia Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors Distinguished Educator Award and the 2019 College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award.

Among numerous additional honors, Tobiason has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region I Environmental Merit Award for Children’s Health in 2018; the UMass College of Engineering Outstanding Senior Faculty Award in 2015; the UMass CEE Department Faculty Research Award in 2013; the UMass CEE Department Advisory Council Faculty Service Award in 2012; the James L. Tighe Outstanding Teaching Award from the CEE Department in 2017 and 2003; a AWWA Publications Award in 1995; and a Fulbright Award for three months of research in Sweden during the summer of 1992.

Tobiason is a registered professional engineer in New Hampshire and a board certified environmental engineer in the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists.

Among his wealth of professional experience, Tobiason has served as a guest professor at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology in 2003 and an adjunct professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 2004. Before his academic career, he was a project engineer for G/Underwood Engineers, Inc. and Wright-Pierce Engineers & Architects in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from 1979 to 1983. There he was responsible for the preparation of studies, report writing, detailed design, and construction inspection for various wastewater disposal and water supply projects.

Tobiason chaired the AWWA Research Symposium on Particle Characterization (1999) and was chair of the AWWA Water Science Research Division Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2007. He is also a contributor to AWWA’s Water Quality and Treatment.

Tobiason earned his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1987, his M.S.EVE. from the University of North Carolina in 1979, and his B.S.C.E. from the University of New Hampshire in 1976. (September 2019)