Kathleen Smits is a Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines. Smits has been interested in the environment from an early age and her interest for engineering grew as she advanced throughout her college career, but there are some things about Smits that you might not have known.
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; for three years, she taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Currently she is an operations research analyst in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, working part time at U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
“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 requiring lots of underwater time.
Since then, Smits has been on several scuba diving trips, mostly in the Caribbean but also in Japan and Hawaii.
Smits also enjoys sailing with her family, starting trips either in Lake Michigan or the Grenadines 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’s lived all over the place
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 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 and has a top three list of the most beautiful places to run:
- Zion National Park, Utah
Since high school, Smits has been an avid runner. Whenever her family took her to a national park for a vacation, she didn’t hesitate to use it as an excuse to go running.
- Nakuru, Kenya
“There are 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!”
- Diablerets, Switzerland
During a research conference in a small, ski town in the Swiss Alps, Smits went for morning runs along a river that runs from the glaciers through the town.
“Where the path ends, there is a road that passes by all the farms with the sheep and cattle to keep you company. What a beautiful place!”
5. Her favorite hobby is photography
Smits started taking photos regularly seven years ago when her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Now Elizabeth is immune to her mom taking photos and poses regularly when Smits has her camera around.
Smits also enjoys playing around with Photoshop to make her photos appear different than the original.
“I also water color to get the other side of my brain work.”
Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Kathleen Smits has been teaching at Colorado School of Mines for three and a half years, but began her journey at Mines in 2007, when she was a PhD candidate. Smits currently teaches Hazardous Waste Site Remediation, Fluid Mechanics and Environmental Pollution.
Smits is working with fellow CEE professor Tissa Illangasekare on studying natural gas leakage from oil and gas production into the environment. She is also one of two Mines recipients of the 2015 NSF CAREER Award, in which she aims to advance the science and education of land surface-atmosphere interactions.