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Tobiason and Xia Chosen for COE Faculty Awards

John Tobiason

Qiangfei Xia

The College of Engineering has chosen Professor John Tobiason of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department as the 2015 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award winner and Assistant Professor Qiangfei Xia of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department as the recipient of the Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. The two awards will be presented at the College of Engineering Senior Recognition Celebration for the Class of 2015 on Saturday, May 9, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the UMass Amherst Recreation Center on campus.

Professor 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. Dr. Tobiason’s 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. Since 2007, Dr. Tobiason has been the principal investigator on approximately $2.3 million in research and co-PI on an additional $5.2 million. To date he has published more than 50 peer-refereed journal publications, more than 50 conference proceedings, and over 100 conference presentations.

Meanwhile, Tobiason has mentored approximately 10 undergraduate honors-thesis students and approximately 60 graduate students, including 11 Ph.D.s (the most advisees of any faculty member in the 50-year history of the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program).

Since 2005, Tobiason has served as faculty and professional mentor for the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) USA UMass Amherst Student Chapter. Most notably, he has mentored the EWB UMass Kenya Program, travelling eight times to Kenya with groups of two to seven students, implementing water supply projects in a rural village, and providing a philanthropic presence from which the university, college, and CEE department all benefit.

Previously Tobiason has received a CEE department Faculty Research Award in 2013, a CEE department Advisory Council Faculty Service Award in 2012, the James L. Tighe Outstanding Teaching Award from CEE Alumni in 2003, an American Water Works Association Research Division Annual Conference Best Poster Award in 2000, an American Water Works Association Publications Award in 1995, 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.

As CEE Department Head Rick Palmer has written about Tobiason, “He, perhaps more than any other faculty member in our department’s history, has had a significant impact on water treatment practitioners throughout New England and beyond. He has been extremely active in mentoring a new generation of researchers and practitioners in environmental engineering.”

Tobiason received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1988, his M.S.E.E. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1979, and his B.S. from the University of New Hampshire in 1976.

Professor Xia received the Ph.D. degree from Princeton University in 2007. He joined the ECE faculty at UMass in 2010, after spending three years as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Hewlett Packard. Upon his arrival at UMass, he quickly established his research group and initiated research on the fabrication of nanoscale memristive devices and their integration into electronic circuits.

According to his ECE colleague Professor Neal Anderson, “Professor Xia is widely regarded as a rising star in the science and engineering of memristive materials and devices, which have potential to truly revolutionize important sectors of the electronics industry.”

In his first three years at UMass, Xia has been successful in winning four federal grants totaling over $2.2 million from AFOSR, DARPA, and NSF. Among those grants, Dr. Xia was a recipient of the 2012 DARPA Young Faculty Award for his proposal “3D All-Silicon-Based RRAM” and the 2013 NSF CAREER Award for his proposal “Scaling of Memristive Nanodevices and Arrays.”

As the ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot has written, “I’ve heard it said from folks, more qualified than I, that Dr. Xia is a young superstar who has the potential and best credentials to become a future scientific leader.”

Anderson went on to say that, beyond his research contributions, “Professor Xia has established himself as a valuable member of the ECE faculty and is making important contributions to graduate and undergraduate education. For example, he resurrected our Microelectronics Fabrication laboratory course (ECE 571), which provides students with hands-on experience in basic semiconductor device fabrication. Unsatisfied with bringing the course and laboratory back to life in its previous incarnation – a Herculean task in itself – he completely rewrote the laboratory manual and expanded the repertoire of devices and structures that the students create and characterize.”

This course, abbreviated as “Microfab,” recently gained a nickname from students: “Microfabulous.”

In 2011, Xia was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award (DTA), a campus-wide highest honor to recognize exemplary teaching at UMass. 

Xia has published 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has given 68 presentations at peer-reviewed scientific conferences. He holds 16 U.S. patents with several more patents pending. His work has been featured in Nature Nanotechnology, Technology Review, New Scientist, EE Times, Small Times, and The Washington Post. (March 2015)