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Dr. Patricia Colberg Promoted to Full Professor
July 9, 2013 — Dr. Patricia Colberg from the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering was promoted to full professor on July 1, 2013. She is the first female faculty member to achieve this rank in the history of the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
Professor Colberg received a B.S. degree with Honors in Microbiology from North Dakota State University, an M.S. degree in Bacteriology and Biochemistry from the University of Idaho, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University. After five years of postdoctoral research in Switzerland and The Netherlands, she moved to Laramie to become Manager of the Microbiology Division at Western Research Institute with an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Molecular Biology. Her tenure-track appointment was made in the Department of Zoology and Physiology where she was eventually promoted to Associate Professor. In January 2009, she joined the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. She is affiliated with the Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research and serves as the College’s Mentoring Champion. She has established the Mentoring Resource, which currently has 13 affiliated faculty members, and has launched a series of faculty development seminars.
Colberg serves as the ABET Accreditation Coordinator for the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering. Recently, she received training as an ABET IDEAL Scholar from ABET’s Institute for the Development of Excellence in Assessment Leadership (IDEAL) in Baltimore, MD. In January 2013, she was invited to become a Senior ABET IDEAL Scholar. In this capacity, she will periodically travel to various universities in the U.S. and abroad to train others on how to assess their academic programs.
Colberg has received a number of teaching awards, including being named an Education Fellow in the Life Sciences by the National Academy of Sciences in 2004. As a teacher, she tries to broaden her students’ abilities beyond traditional coursework. She makes every attempt to minimize traditional lecturing by incorporating research and design projects as well as in-class discussion of papers and case studies. This creates a classroom environment that is both inviting and beneficial to her students as they transition into professional careers. Colberg also places importance on development of her students’ ‘soft skills’ that they will use every day in their careers. She is a proponent of peer-to-peer teaching, life-long learning, and what she calls ‘self-teaching’.
Colberg serves on the Senior Design Faculty for Environmental Engineering along with Dr. Jonathan Brant and Dr. Michael Urynowicz. Students receive an actual consulting engineering problem from the Rocky Mountain Regional Chapter of the American Waterworks Association and Water Environment Federation. They spend the semester designing a solution to the given problem for an actual client and participate in a regional competition in the spring. The project requires teamwork, the production of a professional report, and helps students develop their public speaking skills.
Colberg holds dual citizenship in the United States and Switzerland. She finds that walking into a classroom and having the ability to talk about the world serves as an effective means to actively engage students. She urges students to take advantage of opportunities to study and work abroad.
Dr. Colberg regards her research as largely cross-disciplinary; her primary areas of expertise are environmental microbiology and geomicrobiology. She admits she has always taken the road less travelled, which may be why she feels she is a good fit in her department and with the environmental engineering faculty in particular. Her research interests include both basic and applied topics, but is largely focused on anaerobic microbial transformations of organic contaminants in soils, sediments and ground water; microbial immobilization of heavy metals; electron transport in metal-reducing bacteria; iron cycling in alpine lakes; impact of carbon sequestration on subsurface microbial processes; fate and transport of nanoparticles in environmental systems; and depassivation of permeable reactive barriers.
Over the next academic year, Dr. Colberg will be completing research funded by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. She is the principal investigator on a project optimizing in situ strategies to depassivate zero-valent iron using electrically-induced reduction. She also serves as co-principal investigator with Dr. Michael Urynowicz on a laboratory study evaluating the energy value of coal following microbial conversion to methane.