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Chair's message

December 9, 2020

Laura Lowes

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

This fall, the CEE community continues to not only embrace the present, including remote learning and research, but is also actively advancing efforts to build an even better CEE department. Initiatives are underway that aim to create a welcoming environment for a diverse community of students, staff and faculty; to expand the CEE curriculum to incorporate new engineering design and analysis methods as well as social justice and equity considerations; and to improve learning facilities for all students.

In light of current events, the department’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Culture (DEIC) committee, established in 2018, has accelerated their work in recent months. The committee is working to introduce changes throughout the department that will encourage and support a more diverse engineering community. Their focus is on three areas of growth: department culture, curricula, and self-education. A few highlights include working to include DEIC-related questions in teaching evaluations, a new DEIC-focused course, and adding DEIC content to core CEE classes. I encourage you to check out the committee’s important work. A separate, but related, effort to increase diversity in STEM fields is highlighted in this newsletter— professor Faisal Hossain recently published two children’s books that aim to encourage and inspire children from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in the sciences.

As we envision the future, an endeavor is underway both at the college and department levels to provide enhanced learning space for CEE students. At the college level, work is underway to create an “engineering central” called the Interdisciplinary Engineering Building, which will serve as a hub for all engineering students and provide additional learning space for CEE students. Planning is also simultaneously in progress to modernize More Hall, an aging building that is tight on space and long overdue for upgrades. The success of both initiatives, which are highlighted in this newsletter, relies on private support from donors. We thank those of you who have already made gifts to support these efforts and look forward to shaping the future with even more alumni and friends.

During these unprecedented times, I continue to admire the adaptability of our CEE community. This edition of The Bridge feature several innovative projects, including assistant professor Mari Winkler’s work to detect COVID-19 in the wastestream and associate professor Edward Kolodziej’s identification of a previously unknown chemical that causes death in stormwater-exposed coho salmon.

This issue of The Bridge showcases the creativity and innovative spirit of the CEE community. It also demonstrates our dedication to not only advancing the science and technology of civil engineering, but to educating a diverse community of engineers who will be prepared to create more sustainable and resilient civil infrastructure and protect the health of our environment, for the benefit of all. Assistant professor Nirni Kumar, who passed away this summer, exemplified all that is good in the CEE community. This issue of The Bridge remembers him as a creative and innovative researcher, a dedicated teacher and mentor, and a treasured colleague and friend. He is greatly missed.       

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