Love of learning nurtured at Lafayette: 'When I think about the type of educator I want to be, I think of the professors I had at Lafayette'
By Bryan Hay
Christa Kelleher ’08 (civil and environmental engineering), assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse University, has received the Francis A. Kohout Early Career Award by the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America.
Endowed by the estate of Francis Kohout, an early pioneer in the study of geothermally driven circulation of seawater, the award honors early-career scientists for outstanding achievements in the hydrogeologic profession through original research and service, and for their potential for continued excellence throughout their careers.
Kelleher is the first faculty member from Syracuse to win the award, which is presented each year to only one scientist in the United States.
“Academia is full of ups and downs, especially in this unusual year,” she says. “It means a tremendous amount to be recognized by my colleagues and community in this way. I feel very lucky to have such a great set of colleagues and mentors to nominate me for this award, and an equally incredible set of colleagues and mentors who have helped me celebrate and reached out to express their congratulations.”
Being at Lafayette was a truly unique experience, and spending my first four years in academia within the community of professors and students in civil and environmental engineering truly solidified and developed my love of learning.
A hydrologist, Kelleher studies the movement, distribution, and management of water, and explores relationships between hydrological processes and water quality in natural and human impacted (urban and agricultural) watersheds using data analysis and hydrologic modeling.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, one of her current projects looks at how artificial beaver dams affect the storage and flux of water along stream corridors, which will provide much-needed context for how human interactions are affecting watersheds in the western United States.
Love of learning nurtured at Lafayette
“Being at Lafayette was a truly unique experience, and spending my first four years in academia within the community of professors and students in civil and environmental engineering truly solidified and developed my love of learning,” Kelleher says. “When I think about the type of educator I want to be, I think of the professors I had at Lafayette, and how hard they worked to not only help us learn, but to share their excitement for their specialties,” she adds.
Experiences she had with civil and environmental engineering professors at Lafayette —traveling to Uganda to research water quality with a team led by Roger Ruggles, building a bridge to learn about structural engineering with Steve Kurtz, and singing about BOD (biological oxygen demand) after solving numerous problems about BOD with “the endlessly enthusiastic” Arthur Kney — “these are things I will never forget, because I realize just how unique those types of experiences really are,” Kelleher says.
After Lafayette, Kelleher received an M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from Pennsylvania State University. She has been a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse since 2016. Other awards and honors include Syracuse University’s Outstanding Teaching Award (2019); Syracuse Center of Excellence Faculty Fellow (2017-2019); and the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science Inc.’s Instrumentation Travel Discovery Grant.