College of Engineering News Room

USF Environmental Engineering Doctoral Graduates Recognized with a National Engineering Education Award

USF environmental engineering Ph.D. graduates Pablo Cornejo — an assistant professor at California State University, Chico — and Kevin Orner — a postdoctoral research scientist at University of California, Berkeley — received the 2019 Best Paper Award from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Environmental Engineering Division.

Kevin Orner, Ph.D.

Kevin Orner, Ph.D.

Their paper is titled, “Life cycle thinking and engineering in developing communities: addressing international sustainability challenges in the classroom.” Their engineering education research grew out of graduate research Orner was performing for his Ph.D. in Costa Rica as part of a Fulbright research grant.

Over a nine-month period, Orner was assessing the ability of a novel technology he had designed to recover nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agricultural waste and incorporate it into a slow-release fertilizer. Cornejo had a wish to integrate student learning in his classroom with engineering problem solving in a developing community setting.

For their education research, they assessed the ability of students at California State University, Chico to solve a complex problem of national and global importance that accounted for environmental, economic, and social factors. Important to their education research was determining how the international project helped students achieve student learning outcomes critical for ABET engineering education accreditation related to integrating of global, social, environmental, and economic factors into engineering decision-making and design. Orner commented that he enjoyed the opportunity to work with Cornejo and his students across languages and cultures, and he hopes their paper will motivate and guide future efforts in providing students the opportunity to work on real projects with real data that address global sustainability issues.

Cornejo and Orner were honored at the ASEE Environmental Engineering Division dinner on June 18.

Pablo Cornejo, Ph.D.

Pablo Cornejo, Ph.D.

In announcing the award, the program chair of ASEE’s environmental engineering division, Veera Gnaneswar Gude, Ph.D., stated that “awards are instrumental in inspiring faculty to achieve higher standards for engineering education.”

“It is vital that faculty such as Pablo and Kevin be recognized for their devotion and dedication to the improvement of engineering education and also for promoting USF’s name,” Gude said.

After hearing the news of the award, Cornejo said, “It’s truly an honor to receive this award. It’s great to know that the American Society for Engineering Education Environmental Engineering Division values research and educational efforts focused the integration of sustainability, agricultural waste management and resource recovery to address global challenges related to the food-water-energy nexus.”

The duo continues a history of recognition of past excellence by environmental engineering faculty at USF. Past USF award winners for the ASEE Environmental Engineering Division Best Paper Award were faculty members Jeffrey Cunningham and Sarina Ergas in 2013 and Qiong Zhang and James Mihelcic in 2008.