Making a Difference in the Field
Bruce Dvorak Ph.D., P.E.Department:
Bruce is a professor of Civil Engineering and Biological Systems Engineering. His appointment duties span teaching, research and extension. Bruce is also an environmental engineer, and he is interested in drinking water treatment, storm water management, and working with businesses to help identify sustainable solutions.
How is your work (research and academics) related to sustainability?
I work with businesses and students to educate students on the applied applications of the learning they do in the classroom. They apply the lessons from the classroom to make sustainable changes and to reduce waste and save money. The businesses implement the suggestions because of economic savings and sustainability aspects, such as the social and environmental elements. The social and environmental benefits often do not provide direct cost savings but provide indirect benefits such as reduced liability and improved worker safety. My work with drinking water management focuses on the environmental side and managing it in more sustainable ways.
What motivated you to be a professional in this field?
I was a kid during the 1970s and the start of the environmental movement. I sought to combine the environment and technology issues, like public health and the environment.
What is one memory in your field/areas of interest that you would want others to know?
A number of students from the Partners in Pollution Prevention (P3) program have contacted me years after graduation about a project they implemented years later in their career using knowledge they gained in P3. It’s really rewarding to give students the confidence and experience to do great things.
How are you preparing students to be a professional in your field?
The curriculum is driven by the accreditation and licensure exams the students take. We develop the students’ knowledge and skill sets to help them be successful in the engineering profession. Senior level coursework bridges the theory they learned with practical application and helps students translate technical language into language the clients can understand.
How does your research/teaching solve some of our contemporary environmental problems?
First, my work with the Partners in Pollution Prevention (P3) program aims to help students work at the facility level to produce the same product with less inputs and waste. Secondly, the courses I teach on a broader level have students looking from a systemic standpoint about infrastructure to be more sustainable and to think about the long-term implications of their decisions.
What does sustainability mean to you?
I think of it as trying to find ways of allowing us a better standard of living but using fewer resources and having a just society. It requires innovative thinking and strategic changes at all levels of society and technology.
Why should UNL care about sustainability?
It comes down to this: as the world grows in population to 8 billion and more countries develop a first-world standard of living, we can’t continue at the status quo. We need to think strategically and make smart choices about how we develop technologies and society so we can live better and use fewer resources.
How do you practice sustainability?
The main example is my work with the Partners in Pollution Prevention (P3) program. I work with both the students and the business partners and help identify ways of changing facility operations to be more sustainable but still proved the same output with few inputs and continue to be safe for workers and the community.
What is your suggestion to the campus community on how to be sustainable?
I would encourage students to take a class that teaches basic elements of sustainability in order to think more broadly about how to achieve the three legs of sustainability: people, planet and prosperity.