The Journal of Solid Waste Technology and Management presented environmental engineering professor Samuel Vigil with the Iraj Zandi Award for his work in the solid waste management field. It is one of four awards given at the Journal’s annual International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management, which was held March 27 to 30 in Philadelphia.
Regional editor of the Journal and professor of civil and environmental engineering Shoou-Yuh Chang attends the conference every year. He said he had the honor of sitting next to Vigil as the award was announced and that he was a very deserving recipient.
“We talked a lot during the conference, and I think he’s a very social and nice person, in addition to his knowledge in solid waste management,” Chang said. “I think it’s very good (he won the award). It indicates his contribution in this area — he has educated a lot of students in solid waste management, and he deserves this honor.”
Vigil said the award came as a surprise because he had never attended the conference before. In fact, he said the main reason he attended this year was to present two papers he has recently completed.
The first discusses a research project that he, Cal Poly associate professor James Hanson and director of Cal Poly’s Global Waste Research Institute Nazli Yessler completed for California a few years ago on compost regulation within the U.S.
The second was about a project Vigil is still working on. It uses a space satellite called an orbiting carbon observatory satellite to identify landfill gas emissions from different countries.
The Zandi Award is typically given to a professor presenting his or her paper(s) at the conference, so it surprised Vigil even more ass he flipped through his itinerary packet and saw he would receive the award at a luncheon.
“I didn’t know Mersky (the conference chair) before this and this is a different group of people than I normally know, so this came as a complete surprise,” Vigil said. “I’ve won awards in the past, but nothing quite as prestigious as this.”
Although this year marked the 26th conference, it was the first time the award selection committee had no debate over who would receive the Zandi Award, said Ron Mersky, the chair of the International Conference and associate professor of civil engineering at Widener University.
“In the previous years, we have looked at such things as had the individual advised students who received a Ph.D in waste management or have students been published while working under the individual?” Mersky said. “In this case, there was no debate.”
The committee that selects the recipients looks at each speaker and their biography to decide a potential winner and make a decision.
The winner is someone who has significantly contributed to the waste management field of environmental engineering. It originally received the name because the recipient inspired Iraj Zandi, a former emeritus professor of Systems & National Center Professor of Resource Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania.
“We began giving out this award to an individual who has inspired others to go succeed in the field of waste management,” Mersky said.
This year, it was based on Vigil’s work on a textbook he co-authored as well as his work with the Air and Waste Management Association, Mersky said.
“(Vigil) is one of the authors of by far one of the most commonly used textbooks; he has thousands of students who have learned from him across the country,” Mersky said. “He certainly deserves the award as someone who has been very effective in inspiring people in the waste management field.”
The textbook Vigil co-authored, “Integrated Solid Waste Management: Engineering Principles and Management Issues,” was published in 1993 and is widely used in his field, Vigil said. In fact, the text is currently used worldwide and is published in several different languages.
Vigil has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s in environmental engineering from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D in environmental engineering from the University of California, Davis.
He is a registered civil engineer in California, a board certified environmental engineer and serves on several environmental engineering boards, such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and the U.S. Green Building Council.