Charles O'Melia, one of the world's leading water
treatment researchers and a Johns Hopkins faculty member
for more than two decades, was honored last month in
Philadelphia with a symposium and a tribute dinner during a
national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Over a three-day period, 44 oral presentations were
delivered and a poster session was held, all under the
title Particles and Interfaces in Aquatic Systems: A
Symposium in Honor of Professor Charles R. O'Melia. Many of
these presentations are expected to appear in written form
next year in a special edition of the ACS peer-reviewed
journal, Environmental Science and Technology, dedicated to
O'Melia is the Whiting School's Abel Wolman Professor
of Environmental Engineering. He has received numerous
honors and awards for his research, including election in
1989 to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.
The recent symposium in his honor was organized over
the past two years by William P. Ball, a professor in the
Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering
at Johns Hopkins, and two of O'Melia's former doctoral
students, Menachem Elimelech and John Tobiason. Elimelech
and Tobiason are currently faculty members at Yale and the
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, respectively.
"Charlie is an outstanding researcher and teacher,"
Ball said. "The work that Charlie did with his very first
Ph.D. student still stands as the principal guiding concept
in our understanding of water filtration, and his most
recent work with other students is providing fundamentally
important improvements to this understanding."
O'Melia has also provided important academic
leadership at Johns Hopkins. "Charlie came here in 1980,
soon after the re-establishment of the engineering school,"
Ball said. "He played a major role in rebuilding a
nationally ranked environmental engineering program within
the Department of Geography and Environmental
O'Melia served as department chair from 1990 through
1995, and this month he began another three-year term in
O'Melia, who turns 70 in November, said he was a bit
reticent about being the focus of the recent symposium. But
he attended every presentation and was delighted by the
content. "I was impressed," he said. "Everyone I talked to
felt that the level of research was very high. To me, the
good thing was to see more focus on this area of research
— particles, pollutants and interfaces in water."
He said he particularly enjoyed the tribute dinner,
attended by more than 100 people, including family members,
colleagues and former students. "They showed a lot of
playful old pictures that neither my wife nor I knew
existed," he said. "There was a lot of mirth and laughter