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Geological engineer named to national academy

Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson (large image)

A scientist who works at the interface of geology and engineering was elected on February 10 to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

Mary Anderson, a professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is one of 76 new members and nine foreign associates to be inducted into the prestigious engineering body this year. With Anderson's election, the total number of NAE members in Wisconsin rises to 21.

The NAE, a parallel organization of the National Academy of Sciences, honors “outstanding contributions” to engineering research, practice or education. A total of 2,216 U.S.-based members and 186 foreign associates have been elected to the NAE since the organizations' inception in 1964.

“My many students in government, industry and academia share in this honor, as do my department and the university because they provided the support, and most importantly the flexibility and freedom, to do interdisciplinary work,” says Anderson, who also holds appointments in the UW-Madison Geological Engineering Program and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

A hydrogeologist, Anderson studies the movement of groundwater, the water that flows beneath the earth's surface and serves as a source for well and spring water. In particular, Anderson is reputed for her expertise in the design and application of “groundwater models,” or mathematical simulations that help researchers predict how groundwater is moving underground.

Understanding the flow of groundwater is critical for the efficient management of the municipal, industrial and agricultural water supplies that are pumped from water wells, says Anderson. Sometimes, the disposal of waste underground can also pollute groundwater, making it important to study how and where the contaminated waters might flow, the researcher adds.

“My work interfaces with engineering because engineers are concerned with developing water supplies and cleaning up contaminated groundwater systems,” says Anderson. “The science of hydrogeology interfaces closely with water resources engineering.”

Anderson is currently exploring groundwater flow into lakes and wetlands, focusing specifically on a wetland system in Northern Wisconsin. “We expect that understanding the way in which groundwater contributes to a healthy wetland will lead to better management strategies to protect wetlands,” she says.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Anderson received an undergraduate degree in geology at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. She later went on to Stanford University, where she earned a doctoral degree in hydrology, in 1973. After teaching for two years at the Southampton College of Long Island University, Anderson joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1975.

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2/17/2006