The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Tobiason Selected as an AEESP Fellow

John Tobiason

John Tobiason

Dr. John E. Tobiason, P.E., BCEE, a professor and the head of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, has been selected as a Fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). This recognition is provided by AEESP to members who have demonstrated the highest levels of teaching, research, and/or service in the environmental engineering or science professorate and who have 15 or more years of continued membership within the organization.

In announcing Tobiason’s selection as an AEESP Fellow, the organization wrote that he is a registered professional engineer and a board-certified environmental engineer. According to the announcement, “His research on physical chemical water treatment crosses both fundamental and applied spaces and has been acknowledged to have a real and significant impact on water treatment practices.”

The AEESP announcement also noted that Tobiason’s role as a mentor and collaborator in the environmental engineering community is “widely valued across academia and industry.” His dedication and excellence as a teacher have been recognized with the Charles R. O’Melia AEESP Distinguished Educator Award.

In addition, said the AEESP announcement, Tobiason “has served AEESP as an elected board member and president. He has also served as an American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists board trustee and as a chair or member of several American Water Works Association (AWWA) committees, including Coagulation Research, Membrane Research, Particulate Contaminants Research, and Academic Achievement Awards, and as an Editorial Advisory Board member for the Journal of the American Water Works Association.”

Tobiason’s academic and professional career spans about 45 years from his undergraduate education in civil engineering at the University of New Hampshire to the present. After UNH, he earned his M.S. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, and subsequently he has been a faculty member in the UMass CEE department for more than 33 years.

The rich body of material for Tobiason’s nomination as an AEESP Fellow was pulled together by two of his colleagues in the CEE department, Professors Cailyn Butler and David Reckhow.

According to that nomination material, Tobiason has a long history of engagement with the environmental engineering profession. “He has been remarkably unselfish in his service activities, whether they be to the university or in the greater professional arena,” said the nomination. “His contributions are abundant to organizations including the AWWA, the American Association of Environmental Engineers (AAEE), and the AEESP.”

“In addition,” explained the nomination letter, Tobiason has almost single-handedly kept the UMass Chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB) the vibrant group that it is, leading a group of students to Kenya every January for the last 12 years. He served for many years as coordinator of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering program and recently, in the Fall 2019 semester, assumed the role of department head of Civil and Environmental Engineering.”

Among other awards, Tobiason received the first Abel Wolman Doctoral Fellowship. This is the oldest and most prestigious scholarship offered to water treatment engineers.

“In teaming with Jim Edzwald,” said the nominators, “John became internationally-known in the general area of coagulation and solids/liquid separation. In more recent years, he has established himself as a leader in the treatment of reject water from reverse osmosis systems. Finally, one must point to his work on manganese removal as possibly his greatest lasting impact on water treatment practice. John has developed and tested (in full scale) an innovative dual-stage treatment system that meets multiple objectives including excellent manganese removal.”

Recently, Tobiason and Reckhow have collaborated on an EPA-funded project on the use of ferrate in drinking water treatment. With Reckhow, Tobiason was a lead member of a team that received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region I Environmental Merit Award for Children’s Health for work on evaluating levels of lead in school drinking water.

According to the nomination material, Tobiason’s classroom teaching is ranked among the highest at UMass.

“This ranking comes from the students themselves via our SRTI (student response to instruction) process,” as the nomination says. “He deeply cares about the students and works harder than anyone I know here at making sure they master the material and ultimately succeed in their careers. John is generous with this time almost to a fault. He has an open-door policy and will spend whatever time it takes with students to be sure that they succeed. John regularly brings examples from his consulting activities and his research into the classroom.”

The 2020 and 2021 AEESP Fellows will be recognized during the 2021 AEESP Research and Education Conference on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, scheduled from July 13 to 15 in 2021. (November 2020)