Celia Receives 2005 Hydrology Award

Michael A. Celia received the Hydrology Award on 5 December 2005, which was presented by the Hydrology Section at the 2005 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif.


celia_michaelIt is indeed for me a great honor and an enormous pleasure to introduce Michael A. Celia of Princeton University [N.J.], winner of the 2005 Hydrology Award of the Hydrology Section of AGU. I have closely followed Mike’s academic career since 20 years ago and can honestly say that he is among the top, most creative, and thorough researchers I have ever met in our discipline. In addition, he commands enormous respect from the community for his trajectory as a teacher and his willingness to explore uncharted research areas.

Mike Celia’s extensive work in numerical modeling of groundwater flow and transport phenomena has set a standard for the field, both from a theoretical point of view and from an application perspective to hydrogeological problems. His research in this area not only has been extremely influential in the hydrologic sciences but also has attracted great interest from specialists outside this community, and it is widely referred to in the literature of numerical methods.

Mike’s extensive work in the modeling of unsaturated flow systems has consistently set the state of the art of this crucially important area and has led to its establishment as a very exciting frontier of hydrologic research. As eloquently stated by Martinus T. van Genuchten [U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Riverside, Calif.]:

“For too many years we all struggled with numerical solutions for unsaturated flows that did not conserve mass because of the extreme nonlinearity of the constitutive relationships. Numerous papers about this problem appeared in the scientific literature in the 1970s and 1980s including several I worked on. They all only incrementally improved the solutions until Mike’s classic 1990 paper (Celia et al., Water Resources Research26, 1483-1496) in which he finally solved the problem; this paper is now a citation classic and has since motivated the development of improved numerical solutions of other nonlinear problems. The above example is merely illustrative of the type of innovation that Mike Celia has brought to the field over the years.”

Similarly, John Wilson [New Mexico Institute of Technology, Socorro], among many others, writes that Mike’s contributions “have relevance to the wider study of hydrologic science, ecohydrology, and the movement of chemicals in the environment. In short, he is changing how we model these issues in hydrologic science. There are few other researchers in any branch of hydrology who have made equivalent contributions.”

In addition to a superbly creative mind that makes him a truly magnificent researcher, Mike Celia is widely acknowledged to be one of the best teachers and expositors of hydrologic science. He is at the top of my list both as graduate student advisor and as classroom teacher. Equally impacting is his modesty and generosity of spirit. His selection as the Hydrology Award winner for 2005 will most certainly add distinction to a very distinguished award.

In the words chosen by the selection committee, we honor Mike today “for fundamental contributions to subsurface hydrology and computational methods in water resources, and for providing a model of academia at its best.” This last characterization of Mike as an academic example is especially meaningful and accurate. We are indeed fortunate at Princeton to have him as professor and department chair at Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Rinceton University, N.J.


Thank you, Ignacio, for those very kind words. I accept this award with deep gratitude and humility.

During my academic career, I have been incredibly fortunate to have worked with an amazing group of collaborators, mentors, and friends. This began when I arrived at Princeton as a graduate student and was lucky enough to have George Pinder as my advisor. His treatment of me as a graduate student has shaped much of my academic career, and I thank him today for all he has done for me. It was also my good fortune to have Bill Gray on the faculty and to have a group of fellow graduate students that included Lin Ferrand, who is special to me in many ways, and who very much shares this award with me today.

My first faculty position, at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge], allowed me to work with an amazing group of hydrologists: Pete Eagleson, Rafael Bras, Dennis McLaughlin, the late Don Harleman, Lynn Gelhar, and David Marks. Lynn and David, in particular, helped my career in many ways, and I will always be indebted to them and to all my friends at the Parsons Lab. It was there that I began my research on pore-scale models for two-phase flow, which was inspired by the original ideas of Lin Ferrand. I also focused on numerical methods for unsaturated flow.

These activities grew into a variety of related activities as I left MIT to return to Princeton. These include my work on interfacial phenomena, inspired by the ideas of Bill Gray and Majid Hassanizadeh, and on contaminant transport simulation, guided by important collaborations with Tom Russell and Dick Ewing. I have also had terrific collaborations with Dave Rudolph, Carlo Montemagno, Magne Espedal, Helge Dahle, Stefan Bachu, and a brilliant young mathematician, Jan Nordbotten, as well as a group of students and postdocs including Philip Binning, Drew Guswa, Paul Reeves, Wendy Soll, Hari Rajaram, Rudolf Held, Denis LeBlanc, Sarah Gasda, Michael Puma, Andrew Duguid, and many others. I am indebted to all of them.

In my current work, I am focusing on the fundamentals of multiphase flow, including new concepts, such as dynamic capillary pressure, and on more applied problems ranging from deep injection of carbon dioxide as a carbon mitigation strategy, to work with Ignacio, Drew Guswa, and others on scaling issues in ecohydrology, as well as a new project on water in Africa. Problems such as carbon mitigation and water in Africa represent grand environmental challenges, with geosciences, hydrogeology, and hydrology absolutely central to their solution. The central role of hydrology in important multidisciplinary problems makes this a truly exciting time for hydrologists.

In conclusion, I want to again thank Ignacio for his citation, and also for continuing to be an inspiration to all of us as a model academician and an absolutely brilliant researcher. I thank everyone who is responsible for giving me this award. I do truly appreciate it.

Michael Celia, Princeton University, N.J.