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Nancy Love honored with national award for outstanding environmental engineering education and research

The American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists recognizes Love’s achievements with the Science Award.

By James Lynch

The American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists has recognized the work of University of Michigan Professor Nancy Love, presenting her with the professional society’s Science Award for 2020.

Love, the Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been at U-M since 2008. Her research focuses on the intersection of water, infrastructure and public health.

A professor writes on a whiteboard.
Engineering professor Nancy Love takes notes during the EMPACE Symposium at the Horn of Africa, Regional Environment Centre and Network building in Addis Ababa. Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/ Senior Multimedia Producer, University of Michigan, College of Engineering.

AAEES’ Science Award is given annually for “outstanding” performance in the “management and implementation of environmental science programs” in the public or private sector, as well as demonstrating “exemplary professional conduct.”

“Dr. Nancy Love… is an outstanding environmental engineering educator and researcher, has made outstanding technical and administrative contributions, and is widely recognized as a leader in the field,” wrote David Dzombak, the Hamerschlag University Professor and head of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, in his nomination statement. “She is a person of high integrity and a model professional. She is an outstanding leader.”

Love’s work has taken her as far from home as Ethiopia, and as close to home as Flint, Michigan. She focuses on advancing public and environmental health using chemical, biological and analytical approaches applied to water systems, and co-design methods in partnership with communities.

“I’m truly humbled,” Love said. “I’ve always valued the link between those of us in academia and those of us in practice, and I’ve tried to expose students to projects that require connection to those links and that involve nurturing the relationships they include.

“I see this Science Award from the AAEES as being a sign that the work I’ve been fortunate to do with so many collaborators (including front-line communities, utilities, consultants, governments, and those from within the university including students, other faculty and staff) is valued by the Academy and, increasingly, defines who we are as a profession.”

Love evaluates the fate of chemicals, pathogens and contaminants of emerging concern in water with relevance to public health and the environment; uses technologies to sense and remove these constituents; and advances technologies that recover useful resources from water.

Love has worked on a number of projects recently, including:

  • Flint point-of-use water training: a joint collaboration between University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Genessee County Health Department, and the Genessee County Health System, this program empowers Flint community organizations by providing training modules that detail the installation and maintenance of point-of-use water filters. To date, over 150 residents have been trained on how to provide training to their fellow community members, and project collaborators are currently working on training videos that will allow for multi-lingual access.
  • Decentralized water systems at home and abroad: Love is working with Geremew Sahilu, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Addis Ababa University, to train students how to design “decentralized” water systems: smaller-scale, local solutions to wastewater and drinking water management that empower local communities to control their own water and economically grow their infrastructure. Love taught a course called “Project-Based Urban Water Systems” as part of the curriculum of this project in Winter 2019, and a number of her students traveled to Ethiopia over the summer in 2019 on an exchange.
  • Public health challenges for water in shrinking cities: Alongside public health professionals and fellow engineers, Love researches how the water systems in shrinking cities have water sitting in pipes for longer periods of time than the systems were designed for. This, paired with the aging systems, can lead to deteriorated drinking water quality and an increase in waterborne illnesses, such as Legionnaires’ Disease.
Two people stand near a running faucet.
Nancy Love, Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and her collaborator from Wayne State University Shawn McElmurry calibrate a testing instrument as Flint residents and members of the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP) meet at their headquarters to gather supplies for a day in neighborhoods, sampling water. More info about FACHEP: Flint, Michigan, July 7th, 2017. Photo by Marcin Szczepanski/Multimedia Director, University of Michigan, College of Engineering

She has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a PhD degree in Environmental System Engineering from Clemson University. Dr. Love has also held leadership positions in multiple organizations, including with the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the International Water Association (IWA), and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP).

AAEES is a non-profit organization supporting the Environmental Engineering and Environmental Sciences professions with training and certifications.The Science Award goes to “an individual who is an outstanding performer in the management and implementation of environmental science programs and projects conducted under either public or private auspices and has demonstrated exemplary professional conduct, had distinguished qualities of personal leadership, originality in devising new management techniques for dealing with environmental issues, and sensitivity and responsiveness to the impact of social and political influences on the conduct of environmental programs.”

“Unquestionably, Prof. Love is a pioneering environmental engineer undertaking high-impact research at the interface of water, infrastructure and public health,” said Jerry Lynch, the Professor and Donald Malloure Department chair for U-M’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Furthermore, her work with local and global communities aiming to build local capacity for communities to tackle complex environmental issues affecting them is celebrated by this award.”

Love will receive the award on October 15, 2020 in the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists’ Virtual Award Ceremony and Conference.


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