During his tenure at the University of Cincinnati, Daniel B. Oerther researched water quality in India and helped develop water-treatment systems in Kenya. Now he’s further developing Missouri S&T’s environmental engineering program as the John A. and Susan Mathes Chair of Civil Engineering, an endowed faculty position created through donations from the Matheses.
Oerther joined the S&T faculty over the summer as the newest researcher to hold one of 11 endowed faculty positions funded during the Advancing Excellence Campaign. It’s also one of two endowed positions focused on the important areas of energy and the environment.
Energy and the environment have become critical to the future of S&T — so much, in fact, that the campus has embraced a slogan of sorts to help define its commitment to those research areas: E3 = C, which stands for “Energy, the Environment and Education Equals Civilization.”
“Without those three E’s, civilization as we know it would cease to exist,” says Missouri S&T Chancellor John F. Carney III.
Fortunately for Carney and Missouri S&T, many alumni agree and have supported the campus in its effort to create a more sustainable and energy-secure future.
“Without those three E’s, civilization as we know it would cease to exist.”
The E3 vision actually began a decade before Carney joined S&T. In 1995, Mathes, CE’67, MS CE’68, and his wife established the Mathes Chair position — originally a professorship — “to help create an environmental engineering program where there was none.” An environmental engineering entrepreneur himself, Mathes foresaw the day when environmental issues would require the talents of world-class researchers and educators like Oerther, and he wanted to help his alma mater gain a strong position in this growing field.
The position was first held by another water quality expert: Craig Adams, who now holds a distinguished professorship at the University of Kansas. Adams built the environmental engineering program in S&T’s civil engineering department, bringing in new funding and junior-level faculty whose expertise in areas such as wetlands protection and phytoremediation helped broaden the initiative. The progress Adams and his fellow faculty made impressed John and Susan Mathes so much that they decided to invest even more in the program.
“By 2006,” Mathes says, “we were so pleased with the quality of the program Dr. Adams and his colleagues had created, we decided to increase our investment and further enhance the program by creating the Mathes Chair.”
Complementing that commitment to environmental engineering is a recent gift to bolster a second “E” in our equation: energy. Last year, Wayne Laufer, CE’67, and his wife Gayle established the university’s first endowed chair for energy. A search to find the all-star energy researcher to fill that position is under way. The Laufers see the person as a catalyst to focus S&T’s energy research and move it to a higher level, much as the Mathes Chair has done for environmental engineering.
S&T’s energy program is already strong and diverse. While rooted in traditional energy fields like geology, geophysics, and geological, mining, nuclear and petroleum engineering, the campus’s emphasis extends to areas ranging from transportation systems and power grids to engine design and supply-chain management. Today’s students are examining the best ways to get the most out of current systems while envisioning smarter, more efficient energy solutions for the future.
Some of the most innovative energy projects at Missouri S&T intersect with the university’s commitment to that other “E,” the environment. Several S&T researchers are involved in a national effort to develop a futuristic power grid — an “Internet for energy” — that would connect traditional energy sources with new, more sustainable systems, such as wind, solar and hydrogen power sources. The university is home to the Midwest’s only hydrogen fueling station, based at the E3 Commons, a hub of energy-environmental design work. Aided by $5 million in stimulus funding, the university is among the nation’s leaders in developing coursework to prepare students to design and develop plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.
Much of this work would not occur without the support of private gifts, however. As Carney points out, “The key to an environmentally sustainable, energy-secure future lies in working with partners in the private sector, government agencies, and alumni and friends who believe in our ability to address these challenges.”
With the support of partners like John and Susan Mathes and Wayne and Gayle Laufer, Missouri S&T’s E3 efforts combine to create a formula for success.