Paul V. Roberts/AEESP Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

Nominations for 2023 AEESP Awards will open on November 1, 2022.

Please take a moment to read AEESP's Conflict of Interest Policy to ensure nominators and/or nominees do not pose a conflict of interest prior to submitting nominations.

This award is given annually to recognize a rigorous and innovative doctoral thesis that advances the science and practice of water quality engineering for either engineered or natural systems. Special consideration will be given to physical-chemical process research and/or research that especially supports underserved communities, environmental awareness, or sustainable solutions. The award will consist of a plaque and a cash prize of $1,500 for the student, and a plaque and a cash prize of $500 for the faculty advisor. A $750 travel allotment is provided to the student recipient if he or she attends the awards ceremony. A total allotment of $750 is also available to support travel of the faculty advisor to the awards ceremony, or may be shared by faculty co-advisors who attend the ceremony.

A selection committee of five AEESP members will review each nomination in a two-stage process. In the first stage, the committee will evaluate nomination packages consisting of three parts:

  1. A nomination letter, written on letterhead, from the faculty advisor.  The nomination letter will be considered in the evaluation process and must contain only the following information: (1) the e-mail and mailing addresses and telephone numbers for the student and advisor, (2) an indication as to when the dissertation was completed, (3) a concise statement (up to 250 words) defining the student's intellectual contribution to the work.  The student's contribution is especially important if multiple authors contributed to the work.
  2. A project summary written by the student, including an overview, the relevance to the science and practice of water quality engineering, and intellectual merit and broader impacts of the work (similar to an NSF proposal).  This document is limited to 1200 words.
  3. A 2-page CV for the student, following NSF guidelines (e.g., see https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappg18_1/pappg_2.jsp)

These first-stage submissions will be evaluated on the contributions to the advancement of environmental engineering and science, intellectual merit and broader impacts of the research and clarity of presentation.  The most highly ranked nominees will be invited to submit full-length dissertations for a second-stage review and consideration for a dissertation award.  Second-stage evaluation criteria are similar to first-state review.

Faculty advisors are encouraged to nominate dissertations completed under their supervision but must limit themselves to a single entry.  Nominated dissertations must be from the calendar year prior to when the award is given, i.e., the due date printed on the dissertation cover must be from the prior calendar year prior to the nomination year.

*Eligibility: Dissertations must have been from the previous calendar year, as per the cover page of the dissertation. Dissertations may be submitted up to one year late, but only under very extenuating circumstances. This is at the discretion of the Chair of the Awards Committee, but with approval from the AEESP President.

Questions may be directed to the chair of the Ph.D. Dissertation Awards Committee:
Dr. Natalie Capiro
Department of Civil Engineering
Auburn University
e-mail: wen.zhang@njit.edu; Tel: 334-844-4369

Professor Roberts (1938 - 2006) was among the very best and most admired environmental engineers of his generation. He brought together interdisciplinary teams of hydrogeologists, chemists, microbiologists, and engineers, and showed the value of interactions between laboratory studies, field studies, and theory for the solution of complex environmental problems. In 1997, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for these contributions. Paul was an inspiration to his students and faculty colleagues. For his students, Paul provided not only the tools, motivation and inspiration for making rigorous and innovative contributions to environmental engineering and science, but also a poignant example of how one can balance professional excellence with a full and rich personal life. He was an advocate of environmental awareness and green engineering long before it was commonly popular, and he was a strong supporter of environmental justice and engineers' role in helping to meet the needs of underdeveloped communities. Paul was a role model for many, and was often heard reminding his students and others to "do good while doing well."

AEESP thanks the generosity of the Roberts family and other donors to the Paul Roberts Award Fund. AEESP also thanks the Paul Roberts Award Fund Steering Committee and AEESP Foundation for their efforts to endow this award.

Past Recipients

Year Recipient Dissertation Title Advisor
2022 Riley Mulhern Point-of-Use Water Treatment for Private Wells in North Carolina: Risks and Solutions for Lead, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), and Microbial Contaminants Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Indiana University
2021 Michael Bentel Understanding Structure-Reactivity Relationships for Aqueous Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Within the UV/sulfite System Jinyong Liu, University of California, Riverside
2020 John T. Trimmer Resource Recovery from Sanitation to Amplify Development: Navigating Global and Local Possibilities Jeremy S. Guest, University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana
2019 Emily D. Garner Occurrence and Control of Microbial Contaminents of Emerging Concern through Urban Water Cycle: Molecular Profiling of Opportunistic Pathogens and Antibiotic Resistance Amy Pruden and Marc Edwards, Virginia Tech
2018 Masaru Nobu Omics-based characterization of complex anaerobic metabolism in methanogenic wastewater treatment Wen-Tso Liu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2017 Kimberly Parker Contribution of Halides to Photochemical Reactions in Estuaries and Coastal Waters William Mitch, Stanford, University
2016 Sara E. Beck Wavelength-Specific Effects of Ultraviolet Light on Microorganisms and Viruses for Improving Water Disinfection Karl G. Linden, University of Colorado
2015 Justin T. Jasper Treatment of Trace Organic Contaminants and Nutrients in Open-Water Unit Process Wetlands David L. Sedlak, UC-Berkeley
2014 Roland D. Cusick Nutrient and Heat Recovery from Waste Streams Using Microbial Electrochemical Technologies Bruce E. Logan, Penn State University
2013 Greg LeFevre Fate and Degradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Stormwater Bioretention Cells Paige Novak and Raymond Hozalski, University of Minnesota
2012 Simoni Triantafyllidou Lead (Pb) Contamination of Potable Water: Public Health Impacts, Galvanic Corrosion and Quantification Considerations Marc A. Edwards, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

AEESP established the original doctoral dissertation award in 1974 with sponsorship from the consulting firm Engineering-Science, Inc. When Engineering-Science merged with Parsons Corporation in 1995, sponsorship of the award was continued by the Parsons Corporation for another 10 years. In the 2006 the award was discontinued and there were two doctoral dissertations awards made through sponsorship by CH2M Hill (2006-2011). The list of the winners of the Parsons/Engineering-Science from 1974-2005 are provided below:

Year Recipient Thesis Title Advisor
2005 John R. Zimmerman In Situ Stabilization of Persistent Organic Contaminants in Marine Sediments Richard Luthy, Stanford University
2004 William Mitch Prevention of the Formation of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) during Waste Water Chlorination David L. Sedlak, University of California, Berkeley
2003 Qilin Li Competitive Adsorption of Trace Organic Compounds by PAC Membrane Filtration Systems Vernon L. Syoeyink and Benito Marinas, University of Illinois
2002 Charles B. Bott Elucidating the Role of Toxin-Induced Microbial Stress Responses in Biological Wastewater Treatment Process Upsets Nancy G. Love, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
2001 Martin D. Johnson Phenanthrene Sorption/Desorption Mechanisms and Rapid Prediction of Long-Term Desorption Rates Using Superheated Water Walter J. Weber Jr, University of Michigan
2000 Carlos Filipe Competition Between Phosphate and Glycogen Accumulating Bacteria: Stoichiometry, Kinetics and the Effects of pH C.P. Leslie Grady, Jr, Clemson University
1999 Chi-Wang Lismid Characterizing the Properties and Reactions of Natural Organic Matter by UV Spectroscopy: Adsorption of NOM and Formation of Disinfection By-Products Mark M. Benjamin and Gregory Korshin, University of Washington
1998 Laura J. Ehlers RP4 Plasmid Transfer Among Strains of Pseudomonas in a Biofilm Edward J. Bouwer, Johns Hopkins University
1997 Xiaoyan Li Coagulation between Fractal Aggregates and Small Particles and Fractal Properties of Marine Particles Bruce Logan, University of Arizona
1996 Michael H. Bergin Measurement and Modeling of Fluxes of Chemical Species to the Greenland Ice Sheet at Summit Cliff I. Davidson, Carnegie Mellon University
1995 Tian Cheng Zhang Influence of Biofilm Structure on Transport and Transformation Processes in Biofilms Paul Bishop, University of Cincinnati
1994 Chih-Hsiang Liao The Investigation of Hydrogen Peroxide Photolysis as a Water Treatment Process Mirat D. Gurol, Drexel University
1993 Wookeun Bae Modeling Dual-Limitation Kinetics Incorporating Intracellular Cofactor Responses Bruce Rittmann, University of Illinois
1992 Lisa Alvarez-Cohen Formulation of Trichloroethylene and Chloroform by Methanotrophs-Experimental Studies and Modeling of Toxicity and Sorption Effects Perry L. McCarty, Stanford University
1991 Jil Talkovsky Geller Dissolution of Non-Aqueous Phase Organic Liquids in Porous Media James R. Hunt, University of California at Berkeley
1990 Gordon D. Cobb Modeling and Experimental Simulations of Organic Contaminant Biotransformation in Subsurface Environments Edward J. Bouwer, The Johns Hopkins University
1989 Cheng-Fang Lin Adsorption of Metals and Dissolution of Ferrihydrite in the Presence of Polyphosphates Mark M. Benjamin, University of Washington
1988 James R. Mihelcic Microbial Degradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons under Denitrification Conditions in Soil-Water Suspensions Richard G. Luthy, Carnegie Mellon University
1987 David Dzombak Toward a Uniform Model for the Sorption of Inorganic Ions on Hydrous Oxides Francois M.M. Morel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1986 W. Clarkson Fermentation of Particulate Organic Matter to Methane in Thermophilic Anaerobic Attached Film Expanded Bed Reactor W. J. Jewell, Cornell
1985 Arthur Baehr Immiscible Contaminant Transport in Soils with Emphasis on Gasoline Hydrocarbons M. Corapcioglu, City College NY
1984 B.E. Jones Fate of Toxic Organic Compounds in Activated Sludge and Integrated Activated Sludge/Carbon Treatment Systems Walter J. Weber, Jr., University of Michigan
1983 Edward J. Bouwer Transformations of Trace Halogenated Organic Compounds in Biofilms Perry L. McCarty, Stanford University
1982 Chia-Hwa Yang The Effects opf Cyanide and Chloroform Toxicity on Methane Fermentation Richard Speece, Drexel
1981 Antonio O. Lau Substrate Uptake and Mass Transfer Effects in Activated Sludge Bulking David Jenkins, University of California
1980 Thomas Jewell Urban Stormwater Pollutant Loadings Donald D. Adrian, University of Mass.
1979 Bruce Rittmann The Kinetics of Trace Organics Utilization by Bacterial Films Perry L. McCarty, Stanford University
1978 Mesut Sezgin The Effect of Dissolved Oxygen Concentration on Activated Sludge Process Performance David Jenkins, University of California
1977 Bill Batchelor Autotrophic Denitrification Using Sulfur Electron Donors Alonzo Lawrence, Cornell University
1976 Michael Stenstrom A Dynamic Model and Computer Compatible Control Strategies for Wastewater Treatment Plants John F. Andrews, Clemson University
1975 William J.  Snodgrass A Predictive Phosphorus Model for Lakes-Development and Testing Charles O'Melia, North Carolina
1974 Douglas Merrill High Rate Treatment of Raw Domestic Sewage by Lime Precipitation and Dissolved Air Floatation Roger Jordan, University of Colorado