J.V. Loperfido: Going with the Flow
Computer modeling is invaluable for a water-quality researcher, but IIHR alumnus J.V. Loperfido still likes to get his feet wet.
“I think you gain a lot of insight from being out in the stream,” the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researcher says. Loperfido says he learned the value of field studies at IIHR, where he earned much more than a degree — he became a researcher.
“I absolutely loved my time at Iowa,” he says.
Loperfido spends plenty of time in the water in his position with the USGS Eastern Geographic Science Center, based in Reston, Va. His current research on urban stormwater management and water quality hearkens back to his time at Iowa, much of which was spent working in the small streams of the Clear Creek watershed. Now he’s in the small streams near the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay suffers from the same sort of nutrient-laden runoff that causes summer hypoxia problems in the Gulf of Mexico. Loperfido studies excess nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and how different spatial patterns of stormwater treatment facilities can be used to mitigate urban runoff problems. These facilities can include the use of retention/detention ponds, wetlands, infiltration trenches, and underground storage tanks in centralized and distributed configurations.
Forecasting Water Quality
In his graduate research at IIHR, Loperfido collected real-time remotely sensed water-quality data with the goal of making water-quality forecasts in the same way meteorologists make weather forecasts. People need to know the water quality just as they need to know whether it will rain or storm before the day is done, Loperfido explains.
Loperfido first met his soon-to-be faculty advisors, Jerry Schnoor and Craig Just, when he visited Iowa as a prospective grad student. Their knowledge and professionalism impressed him right from the start, along with a certain approachable quality. “They were very down-to-earth and easy to talk to,” Loperfido says.
Loperfido’s PhD dissertation, “High-Frequency Sensing of Clear Creek Water Quality: Mechanisms of Dissolved Oxygen and Turbidity Dynamics and Nutrient Transport,” won the 2009 Graduate Deans’ Distinguished Dissertation Award.
A Big-City Adventure
Loperfido and his wife Kim Lamon-Loperfido (also a UI alumnus) are currently enjoying a big city adventure (with their three cats) in the Washington, D.C., area, which offers an almost endless abundance of cultural resources and historical landmarks. Loperfido says they have a long list on the refrigerator of the museums, galleries, and monuments they still want to explore.
The avid hiking buffs have also found great trails within driving distance of their home in Arlington, Va. They especially like the mountainous terrain they’ve encountered in the Shenandoah National Park.
A Lego Guy
The Stillwater, Minn., native says he benefitted from growing up with two scientifically-inclined parents. “I’m definitely their son,” Loperfido says. His father is a retired PhD chemist at 3M, and his mother is a technical service engineer, also at 3M.
Engineering appealed to him early on. With his parents’ encouragement, Loperfido knew by the 8th grade that he wanted to be a civil engineer. Still, he wasn’t one of those kids who takes apart every toy in the house to find out how it works. “I was more of a Lego guy,” Loperfido says.
Loperfido says if he hadn’t become an engineer, he might have been an artist, like his grandmother. “I love colors; I love different patterns,” he explains. “I have a real interest in art.”