More than four decades of work earns John Novak professional accolades
John T. Novak, professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, is the 2014 recipient of the Association of Environmental Engineering Scientists and Professors Perry L. McCarty Founders Award.
AEESP is the professional society of environmental engineering educators, with approximately 1,000 members. Novak served two terms on its board of directors from 1977 until 1980 and again in 1998 until 2001.
Novak, a 45-year veteran of the civil and environmental engineering field, has taught upwards of some 10,000 undergraduates, and advised 31 Ph.D. and 200 master's degree students to completion.
His research career has focused on the treatment of water, wastewater, municipal solid waste, and hazardous waste. He is a recognized expert in bioflocculation research in wastewater treatment, spanning activated sludge process, anaerobic digestion, dewatering, conveyance, and biosolids storage.
"Biosolids management is one of the most important aspects of wastewater treatment because of economic and health and safety issues," Novak said. "The cost of biosolid treatment and hauling is a major expenditure for wastewater treatment utilities. Pathogens and odor problems may restrict the biosolid disposal options and affect hauling costs."
Biosolids, applied to land in the form of fertilizers, can also impact ground water quality, primarily through nitrogen contamination.
Novak's approach to reduce the volatility of waste and to remove nitrogen from the process differs from some of the previously tried techniques. His work is based in part on some successful treatments of wastewater where a sequential anaerobic and aerobic digestion, called a dual-digestion process, is used.
Novak continues to practice in the environmental engineering field, currently assisting DC Water deliver a $450 million biosolids management program by evaluating anaerobic digestion and dewatering configurations for the largest advanced wastewater treatment plant in North America, according to Sudhir N. Murthy, innovations chief at DC Water.
Novak received the 2013 Excellence in Environmental Engineering Education Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and the American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Scientists for his work linking research and practice.
In 2012 the Water Environment Federation awarded him its Ralph Furhman Medal for outstanding water quality academic-practice collaboration. In 2011, he earned the Frederick George Pohland Medal, honoring a member of the Association of Environmental Engineers and Scientists who has made sustained and outstanding efforts to bridge environmental engineering research, education, and practice.
Novak was nominated by James K. Edzwald, professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts. William Knocke, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, wrote a supporting letter, along with Murthy, Philip C. Singer, Francis A. DiGiano, and P. Aarne Vesillind. The last three are previous AEESP award recipients.
Novak received his bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.