Linda Abriola will seek to advance research and impact by fostering interdisciplinary collaborations
Linda Abriola, a nationally recognized authority on groundwater contamination and remediation, has been appointed director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), with the goal of raising the institute’s profile both within and outside the university.
Abriola, the former dean of the School of Engineering and one of five University Professors at Tufts, will focus on generating new connections that bolster interdisciplinary environmental research and education for faculty and undergraduate and graduate students. She is currently on sabbatical and will assume her new role on Sept. 1.
TIE, which was founded in 1998, has evolved into a hub for environmental research, teaching and leadership at Tufts. The institute’s offices on the Medford/Somerville campus are also home base for 18 Ph.D. students and 30 students affiliated with the interdisciplinary graduate program Water: Systems, Science, and Society.
“I view TIE as an entity that is rooted in Tufts’ longstanding culture of education and research for societal impact,” says Abriola. “This appointment offers me a wonderful opportunity to work across the campus to engage diverse groups of faculty and students to create new synergies. Our primary goal will be to leverage Tufts’ intellectual capital to make a difference in the world.”
Provost David Harris says Abriola’s appointment will “advance TIE’s research and impact by fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, raising awareness of environmental issues in the broader community, and enhancing educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in an area of growing global interest.
“Linda is the ideal person to lead this initiative, given her reputation as a leading scholar in her field, her track record of growing an academic and research enterprise during her 12 years as dean of the School of Engineering, and her ability to work across the institution,” Harris says.
Abriola came to Tufts in 2003 from the University of Michigan, where she was the Horace Williams King Collegiate Professor of Environmental Engineering. She earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from Princeton.
She stepped down as dean of the School of Engineering last summer, and will continue to be the principal investigator in Tufts’ Integrated Multiphase Environmental Systems Laboratory. Among other discoveries, her research has produced a mathematical model that describes how chemicals used as degreasers and in dry cleaning—all known carcinogens—spread through soil and groundwater.
Leading TIE, Abriola says, “is an exciting opportunity for me to go back to my roots and to build a stronger research and graduate student enterprise across the university. There is a solid foundation in place, and Tufts has a longstanding reputation for environmental efforts. I look forward to building on those strengths.” She envisions expanding opportunities for faculty and students in the sciences, engineering, health care and social sciences, and seeks to forge connections with those in the arts and humanities.
Abriola says she will get started with a “listening tour” before developing a strategic plan for the institute. “My challenge is to talk with all the deans and try to develop a good working model that adds value and that can be self-sustaining,” she says. “It’s important that we look for new ways to generate revenue from external research funding, from philanthropy and from educational programs.”
Her appointment brings renewed attention to a signature strength of Tufts, which has been offering courses in the environment since the early 1960s. The university has nearly 300 courses related to the environment and is home to major research programs in environmental law and diplomacy and environmental science and engineering.
Antje Danielson, TIE’s administrative director since 2008, says Abriola will help TIE meet growing faculty and student interest in the environment and in protecting the planet. “Over the past eight years, we have grown TIE to the point where it’s very vibrant and has become one of the most cutting-edge institutes working on interdisciplinary environmental issues,” says Danielson, who was responsible for the recent strategic evaluation of the institute. “Linda is well positioned to take TIE to the next phase of its growth.”
Laura Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.