“I attribute much of what I do now to my love of water. My Ph.D. was in water quality monitoring, and I did lots of intensive sampling of rivers and used computer modeling to see what was happening. From there, I studied toxins leeching from landfills into ground water and water distribution systems so as to develop management strategies. I also conducted field investigations of ways to reduce pathogens in wastewater. More recently, since 1997, I’ve served on the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant Citizens Advisory Committee. But it was when I first took an interest in rainfall harvesting systems in developing countries that my focus switched to Central America.
When I first came to UP, I became involved with Engineers Without Borders, a student engineering club that facilitates development projects in low-income countries. One project involved the club traveling to Guatemala to build a system that collected water from the roof and stored it in a concrete tank for a school. Other visits there allowed us to expand out to smaller systems for people’s houses. In Honduras we worked on drainage projects, installing culverts that don’t wash away in the rainy season. Culverts don’t sound glamorous, but people were getting hit by cars on the highways when the town’s roads were washed out.
In 2012, Sharon Jones, our new engineering dean at that time, brought part of a National Science Foundation grant with her, which allowed students to travel to Honduras as part of a summer research program to look beyond rainwater harvesting to sustainable water supply and sanitation. This same research program created an opportunity for U.S. and Honduran students to work together in both countries. My hope is students can learn to use their engineering skills to help others in a respectful, sustainable way. You can’t just charge in and say, ‘I’m the engineer. Here’s your solution; have at it.’ There’s a proper way.”