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Message from the chair

November 29, 2017

      Laura Lowes, Chair & William M. and Marilyn M. Conner Professor

That I would one day write to you as chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department was inconceivable to me when I was a student here and also when I returned as an assistant professor in 2000. I am both humbled and thrilled by the opportunity to contribute to the department’s mission to educate the next generation of engineers.

My time as an undergraduate student at UW was transformative. I grew as a scholar, a researcher, a professional engineer and a person. I enjoyed the time I spent with my CEE cohort working on homework assignments and projects, and participating in department activities. As chair, I look forward to providing opportunities for learning, growth and camaraderie to today’s students. 

I am particularly excited about the launch of the new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering (BSEnvE) degree program, which provides undergraduates the opportunity to focus their studies on environmental science and engineering principles. Our faculty worked for several years to develop the program’s curriculum, which will prepare students to enter the environmental engineering profession or pursue a graduate degree. In the coming year, we will be working to grow the BSEnvE program and graduate approximately 40 students each year.

This fall, I participated in several student welcome sessions and the experience reminded me that student learning is not limited to the classroom. Various student clubs, including the Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge teams, allow students to apply their engineering education to solve real-world problems and develop project management and communication skills. Our department also offers several study abroad programs, enabling students to see first-hand the impact of civil and environmental engineering in communities around the world. This winter, a new study abroad program launches in India with the goal of empowering students to develop solutions for food insecurity and access to clean water and energy. During my tenure, I hope to enhance and expand these important extracurricular learning opportunities.

As a new chair, I am gaining a deeper understanding of faculty research, which is impressive in breadth.   A number of faculty members received grants this fall for innovative research projects, including developing breakaway tsunami resistant buildings to better protect communities; creating sustainable cities that consider the overall health of residents; and advancing wastewater treatment technology that conserves energy. Our faculty share the same goal of creating more resilient communities and healthy environments, which is increasingly critical in today’s society. 

As the academic year and my term as chair begin, I look forward to advancing the department’s mission of education, scholarship and service and sharing the activities and accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff.   

Laura Lowes
Chair & William M. and Marilyn M. Conner Professor

Meet the Chair

A few interesting facts about new department chair Laura Lowes:

  • She is the first female chair in the department’s 119-year history
  • Her five-year appointment began in September 2017
  • Lowes earned masters and Ph.D. degrees at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Her research employs computational modeling to investigate the behavior and design of reinforced concrete structures for earthquake loading
  • Lowes enjoys skiing, camping and hiking with her family
  • She is a season ticket holder for Husky football games