A new dean

Top hydrology researcher tapped to lead engineering school

Linda M. Abriola, one of the world's foremost researchers in groundwater contamination and remediation and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has been appointed the new dean of Tufts School of Engineering.

The Horace Williams King Collegiate Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan and the former director of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program there, Abriola will assume the deanship on September 1.

Linda M. Abriola © Martin Vloet, UM Photo Services

"Professor Abriola has helped to shape public policy on subsurface remediation and is one of the most visible leaders in the hydrology and environmental engineering fields," said Jamshed Bharucha, provost and senior vice president at Tufts. "She has been pursued by the most prominent research universities in the United States, and we're delighted that she has selected Tufts. She has been recognized for her dedication to teaching and research, the dual qualities we seek in Tufts faculty and academic leaders."

Abriola will succeed Vincent P. Manno, who has served as the school's interim dean since Ioannis Miaoulis left the post in January to become president of the Museum of Science in Boston. Manno will continue as interim dean until September.

Intellectual leadership
"Professor Abriola brings an exciting vision, backed by superb experience, to our engineering school," said Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow. "Her appointment underscores our commitment to recruiting the very best scholars and teachers to Tufts. She is one of the true intellectual leaders of her field, and her scholarship has been recognized by the National Academy of Engineering, the American Geophysical Union and the Association for Women Geoscientists. We are delighted to welcome Linda to Tufts, where her strengths in engineering and the environment will contribute to numerous initiatives."

Abriola also will oversee Tufts' Science and Technology Center, which is a hub of technological innovation and cutting-edge research, including projects that turn spider and silkworm silks into new biomaterials and transform bacterial secretions into vaccine delivery vehicles. She also will play a major role in the university's environmental initiatives as well as Tufts' nascent multidisciplinary doctoral program, "Water: Systems, Science and Society."

"Professor Abriola's considerable expertise in groundwater contamination and remediation will add significant strength to the university-wide research Tufts is pursuing across a variety of disciplines, from public health and bioengineering to water quality, climate change and hazardous materials management, among others," Bharucha said.

Seminal work
Abriola was the first to develop a mathematical model for tracking the migration of organic liquid contaminants in the hydrology literature at a time when little attention had been directed toward this problem. This seminal work has been widely referenced and is regarded as the foundation for all subsequent work in this new area of groundwater research.

Over her 19-year career in academia, Abriola has established and maintained a highly productive research program at the University of Michigan. She has played a substantial role in the growth of the university's graduate program in environmental engineering, which is currently ranked as one of the top two programs in the nation. She is the author of more than 90 peer-reviewed publications.

Abriola will re-establish her laboratory at Tufts within the coming year and looks forward to working with students as she continues her research, Bharucha said.

The engineering school's largest benefactor, Bernard Gordon, who is founder and chairman of Analogic Corp., a Tufts trustee and an engineering overseer, said, "Linda Abriola is an engineering leader of great accomplishment and stature." The engineering school is home to the Gordon Institute, which offers an innovative master's degree program in engineering management for mid-career professionals. Undergraduates can pursue a new combined bachelor's/master's degree from the School of Engineering and the Gordon Institute.

Abriola received a Ph.D. and two master's degrees in civil engineering from Princeton University. She earned her bachelor's degree in civil engineering with highest honors from Drexel University. She has worked as a project engineer for Procter & Gamble and has held visiting positions in the Department of Geotechnical Engineering at the Universitat Politecnica de Cataluņa in Barcelona, Spain, and the Department of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

She has received many honors, grants and awards, including the Outstanding Educator Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists and the Distinguished Darcy Lecturer from the National Groundwater Association. She is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

The role of liberal arts
"On a final personal note about Professor Abriola, I'm pleased to say that she's also a violinist," said Bharucha, a fellow violinist with a penchant for chamber music. "In fact, she is an outstanding classical musician and jokes that she 'earned an engineering degree to fall back on.' She told me that among the many reasons she's chosen to come to Tufts is the importance we place on a strong liberal arts education as she feels that this is instrumental in creating a new breed of engineers. Her point is that today's engineers must be outstanding communicators, project leaders and able to manage diverse perspectives and abilities in solving complex problems that the world faces today.

"Our shared vision is that those engineers will come from Tufts!"