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Professor Susan Powers Recognized With National Science Foundation's Highest Award For Teaching And Research

[A photograph of Susan Powers for newspaper use is available at]

Clarkson University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Susan E. Powers of Potsdam is a recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director’s Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. This is the foundation’s highest honor for teaching and research excellence.Susan Powers

Powers is one of only eight professors nationwide chosen by the NSF this year to receive the prestigious award that honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to research in their discipline as well as the education of undergraduates or K-12 teachers and students.

“Susan Powers is a highly deserving recipient of this coveted NSF award,” said Clarkson’s Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering Dean S.S. Venkata. “She is an outstanding professor and scholar who has made lasting contributions to our institution, to her field, and to the many students whose lives and careers have been enriched by sitting in her classroom. She is an ideal role model for future generations of engineers and academicians. This is a great recognition and an honor for both Prof. Powers and Clarkson.”

The award recipients were selected in a national competition based on their outstanding accomplishments as scientists and engineers and as educators. In addition, each awardee submitted a proposal focusing on efforts to improve undergraduate education or the education of K-12 teachers and students that shows promise of impact beyond the awardee’s institution. Powers and the other recipients will each receive approximately $300,000 over the next four years to fund further research and teaching proposals.

“These scholars have a special distinction in that they influence entire academic cultures. They make students major participants in the process of discovery. They also promote activities that expand the education process beyond the boundaries of the university into local schools and communities," said NSF Acting Director Arden L. Bement Jr. "They are true leaders in both the scientific and academic realms. Their pioneering research, already well recognized, is equaled, and sometimes surpassed, by a rare talent and commitment to communicate and teach knowledge."

Powers and the other recipients will be honored at a ceremony on June 2 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

Since joining the faculty of Clarkson’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1992, Powers has been at the forefront of studies on the movement of petroleum fuels and other complex mixtures in groundwater. Her research has been widely published in professional and scientific journals, and funded through grants from the NSF, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Powers is the director of Clarkson's K-12 Project-Based Learning Partnership Program, an innovative program that has increased middle school students' interest and participation in the sciences and engineering through hands-on projects and partnerships with college mentors. Through this program, trained college students have worked with teachers in the Potsdam, Colton-Pierrepont, Parishville-Hopkinton, and Salmon River school districts. The program has led to the development of energy-related curriculum currently being piloted in these schools and considered for national distribution through Project Lead the Way.

Over the last few years, the partnership program has received substantial funding from the NSF and the GE Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of the General Electric Company. Earlier this year, the NSF awarded nearly $2 million jointly to Clarkson and St. Lawrence University to expand the Project-Based Learning Partnership Program created by Powers and St. Lawrence University’s Teaching Scholar Partnership Program.

Powers has also served as director of Clarkson’s Center for the Environment. Her many awards include the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors Distinguished Service Award, the John W. Graham Jr. Faculty Research Award, and the Dow Outstanding New Teacher Award. In 1995, Powers received a Career Award, the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty. Powers is also a member of the team of Clarkson faculty and staff recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award.

Powers graduated from Clarkson in 1983 with a bachelor’s of science degree in chemical engineering, and received her master's degree in civil and environmental engineering from Clarkson in 1985. From 1985-87, she served as project engineer at Engineering-Science in Liverpool, N.Y. She received a doctoral degree in environmental engineering at the University of Michigan in 1991, and served as a research assistant and lecturer there before coming to Clarkson in 1992.  In 1998, she was promoted to associate professor and granted tenure. She was named full professor in 2002.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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