In Kaveh Madani’s ideal world, every living creature would have uninhibited access to water. This week, the UCF civil engineering assistant professor has been honored nationally for his professional and personal efforts to achieve that goal.
He was named a 2012 New Face of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The award recognizes the notable civil engineering achievements of people age 30 and younger. Only 10 individuals in the country were named, and Madani is the only Floridian to receive the honor.
Madani grew up in Iran, where most of the country is semi-arid and socio-economic and political issues are complicated. Both of his parents had careers in water resources. His background influenced his desire to become a water resources engineer, and it taught him that people’s access to water might be more about politics than it is about engineering.
“I’m a non-traditional engineer who pays attention to social and political aspects of engineering problems,” Madani said. “My post-doctoral research was in environmental economics and policy. Engineers and policy makers speak different languages, but I can serve as a mediator because now I speak both languages.”
“When engineers call me a social scientist, I consider that a compliment,” he added.
Madani’s research interests include conflict resolution in water resource systems.
“Engineers create solutions to problems, but often wonder why the stakeholders reject the solution. In order to solve problems, we must have a holistic understanding of complex problems, and that includes understanding how the local policies are made and solutions are implemented.”
One of Madani”s achievements is his Web site. He launched it in 2008, hoping it would become a powerful information-sharing tool for water resources scientists, researchers and professionals. WaterSISWEB helps users store, organize, share and search Web bookmarks related to water resources. The goal is to facilitate research and education in the field.
“Each day, WaterSISWEB gets many hits from people in more than 150 countries interested in water resources topics. It’s the Facebook of water resources management,” Madani said.
Madani also serves as faculty advisor to UCF’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA. The chapter has a commitment to bring clean water to the people of Mare Brignol, Haiti. In 2011, students visited the town and installed rainwater collection cisterns, as well as bio-sand water purification boxes which require no electricity or chemicals. Previously the local residents had to trek six miles or more to get clean water.
Madani holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Tabriz in Iran, a master’s degree in water resources from Lund University in Sweden, and a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California at Davis. Prior to joining UCF in 2011, he was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California at Riverside’s Water Science and Policy Center.
Madani is a reviewer for 30 scientific journals, including ASCE’s Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management and Journal of Hydrologic Engineering. He has authored numerous books, book chapters, journal articles and conference papers.
“The real significance of my ASCE award is knowing that the organization values an engineer who does community service. They honor those of us who go out of our way to help others,” Madani said. “Being honored this way encourages me to want to do even more community service, and it gives me a high responsibility to work harder.”
— UCF —
See a video of Dr. Madani describing his background and his work here.
Read more about the work of UCF’s Engineers Without Borders-USA chapter here.