CORVALLIS, Ore. – The College of Engineering at Oregon State University has named a prominent expert in sustainable forestry and conservation issues as its new director of sustainability programs, an initiative designed to coordinate and expand sustainable construction and engineering concepts throughout the college’s curriculum, collaborative research and outreach programs.
Catherine Mater, president of Mater Engineering in Corvallis, an OSU engineering alumnus and senior fellow of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, has accepted this position.
“There is already a huge level of interest in sustainable engineering within the college and among our students,” said Scott Ashford, professor and director of the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering. “But we believe that Catherine Mater can help us take that to the next level, really incorporate a sustainability mindset into all our courses, our degree programs, our research initiatives.”
Mater has more than 30 years of research and design experience in the forest products industry, in such areas as value-added products or the use of woody biomass and residual fiber. In the past 10 years she has served on two presidential panels to evaluate forest industry harvest and manufacturing options, has spearheaded a pilot project in forest certification on public lands, and provides expertise for a wide range of Pinchot Institute projects.
"With excellent schools of both civil engineering and forestry, as an example, OSU is uniquely qualified to advance - at an accelerated pace – its engineering curriculum, research, and application to meet the growing demands of designing minds, products, policies, and practices that define sustainability benchmarks worldwide," Mater said.
Efforts should be made to more fully incorporate “green” and sustainable concepts into every aspect of engineering education, he said. A new graduate degree program in this area may be possible, and better coordination of OSU sustainability research with other universities is anticipated.
“The OSU College of Engineering is already heavily involved in sustainability research and education, but we can make an even greater contribution,” Ashford said.
In construction engineering, in particular, the university is already active in research and education on new sustainable practices. Improved approaches to materials recycling could lead to a reduced “carbon footprint” in construction of new buildings. New types of concrete could improve energy efficiency. Advances in urban hydrology may lead to less pressure on water treatment plants, better control of pollutants and cleaner streams. Some buildings of the future may have solar panels and “active shades” that reduce cooling or heating loads.
“It has been estimated that almost half of the carbon we are putting into our atmosphere, as a society, comes in some way from the buildings we construct, live in, heat and cool,” Ashford said. “We want students who graduate from OSU to know all of the latest concepts in sustainable construction, as well as focusing on sustainability in other branches of engineering.”
OSU’s leadership in environmentally responsible practices earned it recognition earlier this year as one of America’s top 25 “green colleges,” by the Kaplan College Guide 2009. Schools receiving this ranking were determined to have a commitment to long-term sustainability and to encouraging students to make better choices. The university has also been ranked by the EPA as one of the nation’s top five higher education users of “green power.”
Mater received both a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in civil engineering from OSU, and has been inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Engineers in the OSU College of Engineering.