University sees its first graduate of environmental engineering doctoral program
KINGSVILLE - August 02, 2006
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Region’s only stand-alone environmental doctoral degree
The Frank H. Dotterweich College of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and its Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology- Research on Environmental Sustainability of Semi-Arid Coastal Areas (CREST-RESSACA) will be noting August 4, 2006 as a significant date for both. It’s the day when a CREST-RESSACA-trained student will be the first to receive a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the College of Engineering.
The degree plan was approved in 2002 and is a unique one for South Texas. Most universities that offer a Ph.D. in environmental engineering have it embedded in their civil engineering programs. Texas A&M-Kingsville is the only university in the region that has a stand-alone environmental doctoral degree that is not a joint program with another university. Some of the fields of study in the program include air quality, water quality, environmental systems management, knowledge management, hazardous materials and emission control technology.
The first student to receive the environmental engineering Ph.D. is Muthukumar Kuchanur of Erode, India.
His interest in the doctoral program began when he was a master’s student at A&M-Kingsville. During the summer of 2002, Kuchanur was finishing work on an M.S. in industrial engineering and working with Dr. Venkatesh Uddameri, associate professor in environmental
engineering and a co-principal investigator of CREST-RESSACA. Kuchanur learned about groundwater management from Uddameri and was inspired to continue his education by entering the environmental engineering Ph.D. program starting that year.
In fall 2002, Kuchanur began as a graduate student in the department of environmental engineering and was supported by the National Science Foundation-funded CREST-RESSACA.
Under Uddameri, Kuchanur has taken on a number of South Texas-based groundwater research projects, including a multi-county assessment study, which not only advanced the state of the science but also presented a sustainable groundwater management plan for optimizing the economic and societal benefits, in semi-arid South Texas.
“Most of my research for my degree was centered around mathematical modeling and data analysis, so I didn’t expect to interact with so many people. It’s been valuable experience speaking with such a variety of stakeholders,” said Kuchanur.
Dr. Kuruvilla John, associate dean and director of CREST-RESSACA, builds on Kuchanur’s accomplishments beyond stakeholder interaction, noting his four poster presentation awards at regional and national competitions and his work on six published articles as well as one funded research proposal.
Uddameri, Kuchanur’s faculty advisor, describes the Ph.D. program’s first graduate in nothing but positive terms. “Muthu is fun to work with, has a good technical background and is a quick learner. He also is very dedicated, which is why he has succeeded.
“With this new environmental engineering Ph.D. program, it was important to set the bar high and for the students to reach it. We have students just as strong as those at much larger universities, and they have competed well against those students in academic competitions.”
John said he is surprised by the overwhelming success of the nascent program, noting that there is double the amount of students enrolled in the program than they had anticipated at this stage.
He offers much credit to CREST-RESSACA, which is funding nine Ph.D. students and allowing its master’s and doctoral students opportunities to attend national and international conferences they would not have been to otherwise.
For Kuchanur, graduation is just the first bright spot in his professional future—four job interviews with public and private agencies throughout the country also await him. With the outlook very good, he offers this recommendation to those considering the environmental engineering Ph.D. program at A&M-Kingsville.
“The facilities are excellent. You also get one-on-one attention from faculty members and the unique research opportunities available through CREST,” said Kuchanur.
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