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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 7, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 2
Water Treatment Expert Charles O'Melia Honored by ACS

Honoree Charles O'Melia with two of the symposium's organizers — former student John Tobiason, who received his Ph.D. from DOGEE and is now a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and William P. Ball, a professor in DOGEE. The other organizer was Menachem Elimelech, also a former doctoral student and now a professor at Yale.

By Phil Sneiderman

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.

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 Engineering."

O'Melia served as department chair from 1990 through 1995, and this month he began another three-year term in the post.

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 and camaraderie."


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