Kathleen Smits is a civil and environmental engineering assistant professor at Mines. She became interested in the environment at an early age, and her passion for engineering grew as she advanced through her college career. Smits began her journey at Mines in 2007 as a PhD candidate, and she now teaches Hazardous Waste Site Remediation, Fluid Mechanics, and Environmental Pollution. Here are a few things about her you may not know.
1. SHE IS CURRENTLY A MEMBER OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE RESERVES.
Smits was on active duty in the Air Force for eight years. She also taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for three years. Currently, she is an operations research analyst in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, working part-time for U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
Smits: At Mines I study current and emerging environmental problems that are of interest to our nation and the world using both analysis and experimentation. In the Air Force, I do the same thing for different problems and applications. A lot of the understanding and training that I have from being a scientist directly applies to what I do in the military.
2. SHE HAS BEEN SCUBA DIVING 150 TIMES.
As one of her first jobs out of college, Smits worked with the National Aquarium in Baltimore to help replant eelgrass in the Chesapeake Bay, a job that required lots of underwater time. Since then, Smits has been on several scuba diving trips in the Caribbean, Japan, and Hawaii. She also enjoys sailing with her family, including trips on Lake Michigan and in the Grenadine Islands.
I love every minute I’m either in or under the water, which is ironic because even though I study water, I focus mostly on water availability in dry, arid regions.
3. SHE HAS LIVED IN MANY DIFFERENT PLACES
Smits grew up in Pennsylvania and went to high school in Illinois. She studied environmental engineering as an undergraduate student in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and then studied Civil Engineering Water Resources at the University of Texas in Austin. While in the Air Force, Smits deployed to a military base in Saudi Arabia for about six months and has lived in both Virginia and Colorado.
When I came to Mines to do my PhD, I realized that I really love teaching, but I equally love the research. That’s why I wanted to work and contribute at a university like Mines that has both a research and teaching focus.
4. SHE LOVES RUNNING.
Since high school, Smits has been an avid runner. When her family took her to a national park for a vacation, she didn’t hesitate to use it as an excuse to go running. Her top three list of the most beautiful places to run are:
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Nakuru, Kenya
- Les Diablerets, Switzerland
[In Kenya] there were giraffes and chimpanzees all over the roads that I had to dodge to run down the street. If you run in a straight line, you’ll hit a large animal!
5. HER FAVORITE HOBBY IS PHOTOGRAPHY.
Smits began taking photos regularly seven years ago when her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. She also enjoys playing around with Photoshop to make her photos appear different than the original.
I also paint water color to get the other side of my brain to work. Smits was recently one of two Mines professors to receive the 2015 NSF CAREER Award for her research related to advancing the science and education of land surface-atmosphere interactions (click here to read more).