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April 10: Carnegie Mellon's Jeanne M. VanBriesen Wins Prestigious Teaching Award From Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering Society


Chriss Swaney                   

Carnegie Mellon's Jeanne M. VanBriesen Wins Prestigious
Teaching Award From Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering Society

VanBriesenPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Jeanne M. VanBriesen was named the 2008 Professor of the Year by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).  
"This is an extremely meaningful honor for me because it is given by professional peers who work daily to make the world a better and safer place for work and play," said VanBriesen, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of WaterQUEST (Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems), a Carnegie Mellon research center that studies urban water quality.
The award is presented annually by the ASCE Pittsburgh Chapter for outstanding teaching ability, significant contributions toward improving professional aspects of civil engineering education, integrity and community service. The award was presented in February at the Engineering Society of Western Pennsylvania in downtown Pittsburgh.  
"Given Professor VanBriesen's numerous accomplishments and commitment to Carnegie Mellon's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and its students, the ASCE Pittsburgh Chapter awards committee was compelled to select her as its winner," said John W. Kovacs, vice president and regional manager of Gannett Fleming, Inc. and chairman of the Environmental and Water Resource Institute, which nominated VanBriesen for the award. "The ASCE Pittsburgh Chapter takes great pride in the high caliber of award nominees each year, and VanBriesen certainly exemplifies the characteristics so endemic to this recognition."
"This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition for Jeanne; we are very proud of her," said James H. Garrett Jr., head of Carnegie Mellon's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.
Hardworking and dedicated, VanBriesen spends long hours working on novel research and helping students find just the right academic mix for their many interests and skills.
A passion for solving difficult water issues prompted the innovative Van Briesen to launch WaterQUEST, which has $1 million in university seed funding. The center builds on a wide range of existing water-related research spanning several departments at Carnegie Mellon.
VanBriesen says health and the quality of life are at risk if nothing is done to fix aging urban water systems. Many urban areas, like Pittsburgh, face water quality challenges related to inadequate infrastructure for storm water and wastewater management. And routine monitoring nationwide finds pathogens and fecal indicator bacteria at high levels, making many water bodies unsafe for recreational use.
"WaterQUEST research targets a variety of persistent problems in urban water systems, and we are working on tools for understanding and cleaning up our urban waters," said VanBriesen, who won the 2002 George Tallman Ladd Award for outstanding research, professional accomplishments and potential from Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering.   
"Professor VanBriesen has been a wonderful advocate for enticing more students into the field of civil engineering," said Kemal Niksic of Pittsburgh-based Hatch Mott MacDonald, a civil engineering firm. "She is so deserving of this award."    
VanBriesen has received numerous accolades and honors during her career. In 2007, she received the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association Professional Research Award, and in 2001 she was awarded a National Science Foundation Career Award. In 2008, she was selected to participate in an Indo-U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium focused on infrastructure issues. In addition to the ASCE award this year, she was selected as an Aldo Leopold fellow and as a Hall of Fame member at her high school alma mater.
VanBriesen earned her master's degree and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Northwestern University in 1993 and 1998, respectively. She received her bachelor's degree from the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern in 1990.


Pictured above is Jeanne M. VanBriesen, professor of civil and environmental engineering.