Barbara Minsker, Ph.D., Hunt Institute Senior Fellow

Barbara Minsker, Ph.D., Hunt Institute Senior Fellow, a Professor and Department Chair for Lyle School of Engineering‘s Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship is a nationally recognized expert in environmental and water resource systems analysis and informatics.

Dr. Minsker’s scholarly interests include innovative informatics and systems analysis methods and software to improve sustainability and resilience of coupled human and natural systems. Current research focuses on coupling machine learning and social computing with “Big Data” to improve water resource and infrastructure systems, including green stormwater infrastructure, flood prevention, and response, and urban infrastructure equity.

In 2020, Dr. Minsker and her team finished a study called the Clowder Infrastructure Equity Project that clearly shows the existence of infrastructure deserts, which are like food deserts except for infrastructures like sidewalks, crosswalks, and even trees. The findings are summarized in a story map and the paper will be submitted for publication in the near future. The research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation under grant #1835877.

When asked about what motivates her when doing impact work, Dr. Minsker responded with, “I want my work to make a difference in the world, not sit on a shelf and never be used.”

Another recently completed study has shown how flood posts from Waze navigation app users can be used to accurately predict the risk that depressions in local roads will flood during a particular storm. These findings are also being prepared for submission to a journal.

Early Career

In 1996, Minsker served as professor and Arthur and Virginia Nauman Faculty Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where she began her career as an assistant professor. She was also a faculty affiliate at UIUC’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Minsker was an environmental policy analyst in the Washington, D.C., area.

She received the ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute (ERWI) Outstanding Achievement Award and the ERWI Service to the Profession Award as a result of her extensive leadership background and experience. She has led major collaborative programs in research, education, and outreach in various roles including; PI of the WATERS Network, an NSF-funded project for advancing water resource science and management; Associate Provost Fellow who developed and implemented University of Illinois sustainability education and research initiatives; and founder of two start-up organizations. She is active as a Future Thinking leadership development program, Center for Authentic Leadership

Education and Licensure

1986: B.S. with Distinction in Operations Research and one in Industrial Engineering, Cornell University

1995: Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University

2007-2010: Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Academic Leadership Program

2009-2010: Licensed Professional Engineer, State of Texas

Honors and Awards

1991 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship
1998 NSF CAREER Award
1999-2000 National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Faculty Fellow
2000 Army Young Investigator Award
2000 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists & Engineers (PECASE)
2001-2002 Center for Advanced Study Fellow
2001-2016 Arthur and Virginia Nauman Faculty Scholar, University of Illinois
2003 Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Invitation Fellowship Program
2003 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize
2005 ASCE Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) Outstanding Achievement Award
2006 Xerox Award for Faculty Research
2008-2011 University Scholar
2012 EWRI Service to the Profession Award
2015 Leadership Illinois, Class of 2015
2017 Fellow, ASCE EWRI
2018 Best Paper Award, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC ’18)
2019 ASCE Margaret S. Petersen Award

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