The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Tobiason Wins Yet Another Significant Teaching Award

John Tobiason

John Tobiason

Professor John Tobiason of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department has been awarded the 2019 Charles R. O’Melia Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors (AEESP) Distinguished Educator Award. Tobiason was also recently selected to receive the 2019 College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award and in 2015 won the College of Engineering Senior Faculty Award. In addition, he earned the James L. Tighe Outstanding Teaching Award from CEE alumni in 2003.

In honor of the O’Melia Award, Tobiason will receive a plaque, a cash prize of $1,500, and a $750 travel allotment to attend the awards ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at the biennial AEESP Research and Education Conference at Arizona State University.

This prestigious award recognizes an environmental engineering or science professor who has: a record of excellent teaching in the classroom and graduate student advising; significant research achievements that have contributed to environmental engineering knowledge; and an outstanding record of influence through mentoring of former students and colleagues.

Tobiason began his academic career at UMass in 1987. He was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 1993 and to the rank of Professor in 2003. His area of research is based in the physical and chemical processes that affect the transport and transformation of constituents in natural and engineered aquatic systems, with a particular emphasis on drinking water supply and treatment systems.

“Dr. John Tobiason is an outstanding teacher, educator, research advisor, and faculty member and a true leader in the field of drinking water treatment,” said CEE Department Head Richard Palmer. “He, perhaps more than any other faculty member in our department’s history, has had a significant impact on the many students that become leaders in the field of environmental engineering throughout New England and beyond. He has been extremely active in mentoring a new generation of researchers and practitioners in environmental engineering.”

Palmer added that “John’s teaching style is ideal in an engineering department, with a very strong emphasis on engineering fundamentals, a focus on practical applications, and a talent for extending his subject matter (water and wastewater treatment) into a broader social context. Any student taking one of John’s courses learns not only about how to design engineering water infrastructure, but the history of water quality and public health, the importance of the role of engineers in society, and the responsibilities an engineer has to the public.” 

Since 2005, Tobiason has served as a faculty and professional mentor for our UMass Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Student Chapter. Most notably, he has mentored the EWB Kenya Program, traveling numerous times to Kenya with groups of two to seven students, implementing a variety of water-supply projects in rural villages, and providing a tangible philanthropic presence. 

As Palmer explained, “These efforts have not only provided our students a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience of working directly with stakeholders in small villages in Kenya who are desperately in need of improved water supplies, but they reflect the values professed by the university, College of Engineering, and the CEE department.”

Among many other honors, Tobiason has received a CEE department Faculty Research Award in 2013, a CEE department Advisory Council Faculty Service Award in 2012, the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the Engineering Alumni Association in 1993, and a Fulbright Award to do three months of research in Sweden in 1992.

One of Tobiason’s students commented that “I witnessed his unwavering passion and dedication to his field. He brings a genuine energy and enthusiasm for his research and his classroom material that is refreshing and stimulating. He was also kind and caring. His enthusiasm extended outside of the classroom into his personal life, and his passion for his field and for life was contagious.”

The O’Melia award is given to recognize the significant contributions of Professor Charles R. O'Melia (1934-2010), who had a major role in the education of hundreds of students who studied environmental sciences and engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and Johns Hopkins University. (May 2019)