The American Society of Civil Engineers selects Dr. Cris Surbeck as its 2023 Margaret S. Petersen Award recipient
This American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) award goes to a woman who has demonstrated exemplary service to the water resources and environmental science and engineering community.
Academic peers from the University of Illinois and Texas A&M – Ashlynn Stillwell and Gretchen Miller, respectively – nominated Surbeck, gathering examples of her outstanding mentorship and promotion of professional practice and sustainability in environmental engineering.
As part of this recognition, Surbeck will deliver the Margaret S. Petersen Lecture at the ASCE meeting in Nevada in May 2023.
Empowering women in engineering
Surbeck is keen to get more women involved in engineering – providing guidance to students in her department as well as young professionals in the field.
Stillwell and Miller underscored her dedication to the challenge.
“Cris exhibits resilience and tenacity in recognizing diversity challenges in engineering and working to mentor individuals both within the University of Mississippi and in the broader environmental engineering community.”
Responding to the Mississippi water crisis
Surbeck engages in real-life environmental engineering challenges.
Jeff Kuo, her co-author on the book Site Assessment and Remediation for Environmental Engineers, explained why she is the go-to person.
“Her knowledge of sustainability and environmental justice added a societal context to the technical aspects of our book – and, these are the skills that make her approachable to media outlets.”
Investment in her students
Surbeck began her career in engineering consulting, but made the transition to academia almost 20 years ago. In this role she gets to combine her engineering practice and analytical skills to help students connect to course content.
“Pushing students to achieve a variety of skills, along with treating them with friendliness and respect, has been effective in developing lasting relationships,” she explained.
One of these lasting relationships is 2014 civil engineering graduate Diana Kougias.
Kougias remarked that “Cris’s work ethic, grit, passion for the field of water resources, endless optimism and witty sense of humor make here a wonderful role model. She gave me the encouragement and confidence I needed to succeed and get where I am today.”
“I had only a few female role models when I was a student. I want to make sure that women – and other under-represented groups – are equipped to join the world of engineering and help solve today’s big challenges.”
– Cris Surbeck
- Cris Surbeck is chair and professor of the civil engineering department, as well as the acting chair of the chemical engineering department.
- She has also served as the associate dean for academics at the School of Engineering.
- She was named the ASCE Engineer of the Year of the Mississippi Section in 2021, as well as Engineer of the Year for its southeast region (Region 5) in 2022.