CANYON, Texas — An environmental engineering professor who studies water woes in the Panhandle and in developing communities around the globe is West Texas A&M University’s new Bell Helicopter Professor of Engineering.
Dr. Nathan Howell recently was named to the position, which was established in 2012 to retain and recruit faculty members who will advance engineering at WT.
“Since our engineering program began, Bell Helicopter has been one of our most generous and loyal supporters,” said Dr. Emily Hunt, dean of the College of Engineering. “Nathan is an incredible professor whose research will have long-lasting impact on our region because it is focused on our most precious asset — water.”
Howell said he will use funds provided by the professorship to hire undergraduate student researchers.
“I want those students to be able to grow in confidence and see how doing excellent engineering projects can be of service to local communities,” Howell said. “My field of environmental engineering should be both about bettering the lives of regular people as well as improving environmental quality. This professorship will allow me give more students opportunities to connect engineering to human flourishing.”
Howell joined WT in 2013 after earning a bachelor’s of science in chemical engineering from the University of Texas and a doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Houston, where he studied organic pollutants in urban storm water.
His research focuses on water quality in surface water and sediment, as well as in understanding the value and use of deep groundwater to alleviate water stress in arid and semi-arid regions.
“In agricultural regions like ours, we have large resources of human agricultural knowledge, good soils and supply chains. But it is water that is frequently the limiter for what ultimately do,” Howell said. “As a precious local commodity, which is easy to pump from groundwater, but hard to transport overland, we have to think strategically about the value of the water. How much do we have, what it its quality, and how can a landowner or industry get the most value from this resource? I like to help these water decision-makers to understand the characteristics of their water and what is possible for its use according to principles of engineering design.”
Gifts to WT may be used to endow professorships, offering opportunities for exceptional faculty members by providing additional resources for teaching, research and professional activities and development. Faculty members benefit from the coveted title, and students glean from the professor’s academic insight and leadership. This helps enrich the life of the University and strengthen the foundation of academic excellence.
“As WT prepares to go public in the fall with a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the highest priority will be investment in people — students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations. “Establishing faculty endowments are essential for WT to become a doctoral granting regional research university as envisioned in WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.”