College of Engineering News Room

Mauricio Arias Awarded McKnight Junior Faculty Fellowship

Arias and Students

USF Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mauricio Arias (center) stands in the Hillsborough River with five USF civil and environmental engineering PhD students in his Watershed Sustainability Lab in the spring of 2019.

USF Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Mauricio Arias was awarded a McKnight Junior Faculty Development Fellowship from the Florida Education Fund this fall. The fellowship is designed to encourage excellence in teaching and research by freeing junior faculty from their regular duties so they can pursue research in special areas of interest.

“Academia is sometimes a challenging path, so it’s good to see that there are organizations willing to help professors make the most of what we’re doing and help us continue to make a difference,” Arias said. “The fellowship will also allow me to step back from teaching for an academic year and focus more on other scholarly activities.”

Arias joined USF in 2016 and was previously a sustainability science research fellow at Harvard. He’s spent the last decade conducting research into the effects of dams built on some of the most biodiverse rivers in the world, including the Amazon River Basin and the Mekong River.

This award from the Florida Education Fund is Arias’ first research fellowship, and he plans to use the newfound support to develop upcoming research proposals to NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Arias is one of three USF engineering faculty members to have received a McKnight Junior Faculty Development Award from the Florida Education Fund. Several graduate engineering students that Arias mentors are past participants of programs with similar goals as the Florida Education Fund’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program, which is designed to address underrepresentation of African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino faculty at colleges and universities in the state of Florida by increasing the domestic pool of citizens qualified with PhD degrees from these groups to teach at the college and university levels.

USF College of Engineering Director of Diversity Programs Bernard Batson said that the Florida Educational Fund’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program benefitted over 60 current and former USF engineering doctoral students since its relationship formed with the university more than 20 years ago.

“For over two decades, the Florida Education Fund’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program has been an important partner in our vital mission of advancing STEM diversity,” Batson said. “FEF’s support has enabled our PhD graduates to become future engineering leaders and exemplary role models within academia, industry and government.”

Arias said he looks forward to mentoring minority graduate students who may be supported by the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program throughout his faculty career at USF, as his first group of PhD students will graduate over the next few semesters.