Many new additions have been made to Elizabethtown College’s faculty and staff for the 2012-2013 year. One of these additions is Dr. Brenda Read-Daily, an assistant professor of physics and engineering. Read-Daily graduated with a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Notre Dame last August after earning her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Bradley University in 2005 and her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2008. This will be her first teaching experience, and she is looking forward to using her expertise in the field of environmental engineering to broaden the horizons of her students and the department as a whole.
Read-Daily says that she was drawn to the College by the relatively small size of the campus and her department, by the opportunity to get to know her students personally, and by the prospect of creating a new curriculum at the College, which will be centered around her expertise in environmental engineering.
Previously, the physics and engineering department did not offer courses in environmental engineering. This is one important component of the program that Read-Daily plans to change. In the future, she hopes to provide a wider range of courses in this field of study, including a course on sustainable design. Her ultimate goal in teaching courses like these is to make students better problem-solvers and communicators and to make them more aware of prevalent global issues.
A few of these issues are better education for children and a greater appreciation for natural resources. “Children should be educated on where our water, electricity and food come from and what the consequences of using and consuming those resources are,” she said. “It is easy to take for granted having electricity and clean water. In the same way, it is easy to flush a toilet or throw away trash and never think about what happens with the waste.”
In addition to raising environmental awareness, Read-Daily is passionate about problems concerning water quality, waste management and recycling efforts. In addition to the way these practices are managed globally and nationally, she is interested in learning more about these practices as they pertain to the College as well. Recent initiatives have been implemented to make students more aware of the resources they are using: college computers display a printing screen that shows the student the cost of their print – though this cost is not charged the student individually – and students are encouraged to save paper by printing double-sided pages. Recycling bins for all types of recyclables, including glass, paper and plastic, are plentifully dispersed throughout campus.
“I think the College is being proactive with environmental stewardship,” Read-Daily noted. “I know that new constructions are built with sustainability in mind. In the Masters Center where I work, I know that there are many energy-efficient features in place.” Energy-saving fluorescent lighting has been installed in Lyet and Esbenshade, as well as occupancy sensors (devices turn lights on and off depending on whether there is movement in a room, therefore reducing energy use by turning off the lights when the room is empty). Also included in these improvements is a more efficient air filtration system that reduces levels of exhaust air and decreases energy usage and cost.
There is always room for improvement, however. “I look forward to seeing the campus evolve over the years,” Read-Daily said. “We all need to be good stewards.” As part of her future research, Read-Daily is considering a project that involves the improvement of water quality for the purpose of agriculture, as well as the design of a biologically-engineered drainage system. She plans to involve her students directly in her project, encouraging them to conduct research during the summer months.
Read-Daily has already begun teaching classes for the fall semester and, as a new professor, she has a few pieces of advice to offer students. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “Also, make sure you are not getting overly committed in other activities. A large part of life is figuring out how to prioritize and balance your commitments.” If students’ strategies for studying are not working for them, they should try a different approach, and because she is interested in getting to know her students and developing personal relationships with them, she encourages students to go and see their professors and talk with them personally about coursework.
One of Read-Daily’s personal goals for her first teaching experience is to aid in the recruitment of a greater number of female students into the engineering program. She admitted, “When I was a freshman in college, I was a bit intimidated by having few female peers and zero female professors.” Despite this adversity during her schooling, Read-Daily found that she could easily adapt to the challenge, and she feels that the vast majority of the engineering community is encouraging of female students and professionals. “The obstacles come more from outside engineering,” she said. “There are definitely stereotypes that need to be dispelled. People are oftentimes surprised when I tell them what I do for a living.”
While the details of her career may be surprising to some, it is probably not surprising that Read-Daily enjoys spending her spare time outdoors. She has a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature, evident in her love for running, hiking and simply being outside. She enjoys going hiking with her husband, Kyle, and her eight-month-old daughter, Clara. “It is important for kids and adults to get outside into nature where they can play and explore,” she advised. “It is in those experiences where people develop an appreciation for the intrinsic value of nature.”