Brad Striebig: Championing education in sustainable design and development

August 2016

As a teenager who loved spending time outdoors, Brad Striebig (’91 C E; ’96 PhD ENV E) took notice of how humans were transforming the environment.

“Birds of prey were scarce in Pennsylvania due to DDT spraying in the 1950s and 60s,” recalls Brad. “We were changing the outside world—and not always in positive ways.”

A passion for improving the environment brought Brad to Penn State to study civil engineering.

In order to gain some out-of-class experience, he completed a co-op at Buchart Horn, a small engineering firm in his hometown of York, PA.

“I worked closely with engineers who had doctorate degrees and saw that they could explore broader solution sets and tackle bigger problems. That inspired me to seriously consider graduate school,” says Brad.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree from Penn State, Brad went on to earn a master’s degree in environmental systems engineering from Clemson University before returning to Penn State, where he received his doctorate in environmental engineering in 1996.

While pursuing his doctorate, Brad worked in a new program at the Applied Research Laboratory that involved hands-on research on full-scale, pilot-scale, and bench scale air pollution control systems, in conjunction with the Marine Corps base in Barstow, CA.

Brad says he enjoyed the project—especially being afforded opportunities to work with the Department of Defense and the Department of Environmental Protections—but ultimately, his heart was set on teaching.

In 2002, Brad joined Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, as an associate professor in the civil engineering department. During his six-year tenure, he founded and advised the university’s Engineers Without Borders chapter.

Brad capitalized on an opportunity to move closer to his home state in 2008, when he was hired by James Madison University (JMU) to help establish their undergraduate engineering program.

Today, Brad is a professor of engineering at JMU, where he continues his research interests in environmental treatment system design and sustainable development.

“I teach not only the concept of sustainability as it pertains to what we should do, but I also educate students about measuring what sustainability means and using different tools to make decisions. I want them to learn how to incorporate sustainability into their engineering design processes from a quantitative standpoint,” he explains.

Brad also directs JMU’s WATER (Water for Africa, Technology, Education and Reciprocity) Study Abroad Program, a joint initiative promoting education in sustainable development among JMU, Gonzaga University, and the Songhai Center in Benin, Africa.

His first nationally published textbook, Engineering Applications in Sustainable Design and Development, was recently selected as a recipient of the Most Promising New Textbook Award by the Textbook and Academic Authors Association. The award recognizes excellence in first edition textbooks and learning materials.

Brad says he feels fortunate to have remained connected to many people at Penn State, both as part of his educational journey and throughout his career. Specifically, he appreciates the special efforts of his former adviser, Robert Heinsohn, who is now a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering.

“He connected me with one of his former students at Clemson when I sought his advice about grad school, and he informed me of the research program at ARL, which influenced my return to Penn State to earn a doctorate,” he explains.

Brad lives in Harrisonburg, VA, with his wife, Abigail (’98 Agr), and their sons, Preston and Zachary.

—Stefanie Tomlinson

Brad Striebig