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National Civil Engineering Department Heads Convene at Drexel


May 30, 2018

We have dynamic and innovative things happening in this city and especially here in University City. I’ll mention some of them in a few minutes, but first I would like to say a few words about my colleague and friend Chuck Haas.

Drexel has many stellar faculty — and Chuck is one of our more brilliant scholars. But he is also an important adviser and a true citizen of our University.

As the chair of Drexel’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environment engineering, Chuck’s research focuses on the all-important issue of maintaining safe sources of drinking water.

His academic home — Drexel Engineering — has a storied history, reaching back more than a century to the University’s earliest days. Today, it’s the largest private engineering college in the nation — with nearly 4,000 students and 12 different undergraduate majors. At the graduate level, Drexel Engineering was one of the first to offer fully accredited online master’s degrees. And Chuck has been pivotal to the College’s reputation for excellence and innovation for more than four decades.

A bit of history: In the late 1970s, public health agencies and regulators still did not have effective scientific methods to determine whether treatment processes were adequately eliminating the risk of exposing the public to pathogens in municipal water supplies. Then Chuck got to work.

In 1983, he made his first groundbreaking findings on estimating the risk of human exposure to low doses of micro-organisms. From there, Chuck went on to become an expert in so many areas — from bioterrorism, to risk management, to waste treatment, and more.

He’s gone from strength to strength: Chuck was the scientific lead at the Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment — a $10 million effort funded jointly by the Dept. of Homeland Security and the EPA.

He set the gold standard for microbial risk assessment and understanding the relationship between water quality and health. In short, he is on the frontlines in keeping us safe.

Chuck is also on the cutting edge in understanding the impact of new uses of water — such as in the risks and benefits of closed-loop systems and the re-use of storm water runoff.

In June, Chuck is going to pick up the AP Black Research Award from the American Water Works Association. This prestigious honor is granted on an as-needed basis and recognizes “outstanding research contributions to water science and water supply rendered over an appreciable period of time.”

We at Drexel certainly appreciate Chuck’s scholarship and his standing as a national expert — even someone who was consulted during the Ebola outbreak in Africa. And it is such a privilege to be associated with one of the handful of thought leaders on water treatment.

No wonder Chuck’s work has been widely cited, utilized and honored: Last year, the National Water Research Institute awarded Chuck the Clark Prize for pioneering and applying methods to assess and minimize health risks caused by exposure to disease-causing micro-organisms.

His ability to explain complex water-treatment issues — based on independent research —has made Chuck a widely sought-after media commentator. With his insights appearing in Scientific American, Forbes, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Inside Higher Ed, The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications.

When a University is fortunate enough to have someone as expert as Chuck, someone with such in-the-field experience, with such a probing intellect, and whose work is so vital to the public health of millions, well, it is a rare privilege, indeed.

I am honored and more than a bit in awe of the fact that Professor Haas has developed his genius while at Drexel.