St_Thomas Engineer 2023

Founding Faculty

Faculty Profile


EXPLORING NEW WAYS TO PROVIDE CLEAN, SAFE WATER Assistant Professor Sara Mollamohammada joined the University of St. Thomas as the newest member of the civil engineering faculty, and she is on a mission to help find easy, accessible ways to provide clean, safe water in remote and rural areas. WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH ARE YOU DOING? My research is primarily focused on using algae as an efficient alternative technology to remove contaminants of environmental concern from water and wastewater. This process will lower the health risks associated with the presence of contaminants in water and will produce valuable biomass which can be used as a source of green energy. The development of such a system starts from using the ideal conditions in the lab, followed by using actual water and wastewater samples. WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR WATER RESOURCES ENGINEERING COME FROM? As an undergraduate student, I found environmental engineering to be very interesting and decided to pursue a career within that field. When I got involved in water treatment troubleshooting and designing, I found a higher calling. Over time, I have been involved with Engineers Without Borders, an organization that visits developing countries to help with various civil engineering projects (water, building, etc.). Within this organization, I learned about the need these developing countries have for water treatment plants in remote areas. We are fortunate to have clean drinking water and often take it for granted. There are many places in the world, especially in more rural areas, that do not have access to safe water. This sparked my passion to bring forth positive contributions within this field. WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY? I love teaching! My philosophy has always been that if you can engage your students, they will fall in love with the subject and remarkable things can come from that! I like to mix things up in my classroom: hands-on projects, guest speakers and field trips whenever possible. When you provide students with real-world, hands-on experiences and opportunities, they start seeing possibilities and become curious learners. n

The School of Engineering owes its success today to the innovative founders. Learn about the individuals who contributed to the longevity and strength of the school.


She developed the curriculum for the Graduate Programs in Software in 1984 in consultation

Zimmerman designed a program to supply a comprehensive view of manufacturing to students without an undergraduate engineering degree. He was recognized with the university’s Distinguished Service Award in 2005 as an “outspoken and untiring advocate for the need to revitalize industry” in the U.S. JOHN POVOLNY A 1947 graduate

While still an undergraduate, Stephen Nachtsheim helped design and propose the Quantitative Methods

with industry professionals. The program stressed managerial and technical skills. When the program opened in 1985, it was one of only four of its kind in the nation. Upon her retirement in 2003, Folz received the university’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognized her contributions to building the program to its stature today as a top leading graduate data science and software program. FRED ZIMMERMAN Fred Zimmerman joined the St.

and Computer Science (QMCS) program at St. Thomas – the first computer science major at a Minnesota liberal arts college. After his graduation in 1967, Nachtsheim served for six years as St. Thomas’ director of campus computing – even while teaching courses in this new major. His background in database management later led to a distinguished career at Intel. Nachtsheim became a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in 2002 and was recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009. BERNICE FOLZ Bernice Folz joined the St. Thomas QMCS faculty in 1978 after a successful career working for IBM and Unisys and teaching at several colleges and universities.

of the College of St. Thomas, John Povolny retired from a 38-year career at 3M in 1986 after rising to the

level of divisional vice president. Immediately after his retirement, Povolny became a consultant for the new Manufacturing Systems Engineering master’s program at St. Thomas. Over the next 30 years, Povolny served on the School of Engineering faculty at St. Thomas in many roles from coordinator for the MSE program’s satellite campus in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to the associate director of graduate engineering. Until recent years, he was also a member of the School of Engineering’s Board of Governors. n

Thomas faculty in 1985 to establish and direct the Graduate Programs in Manufacturing

Systems Engineering. Building on his experience in executive leadership for companies such as IBM, Control Data, National Computer Systems and Computool,

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