SMU Names Leading Researcher in Water-Energy Systems, Kathleen M. Smits, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kathleen M. Smits

DALLAS (SMU) – Kathleen M. Smits has joined SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering as chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Solomon Professor for Global Development. Water, energy and the environment are common themes of her research, specifically land/atmosphere interactions, greenhouse gas emissions from infrastructure and the integration of sustainable environmental remediation and local knowledge.

Smits will teach courses in environmental clean-up in developing communities, contaminant transport modeling, water resources and other topics that align with furthering research in these areas. As the Solomon Professor for Global Development, Smits will be affiliated as a Senior Fellow with the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity at the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU.

“Dr. Smits is an internationally recognized expert on thermal and fluid transport through soils and into the atmosphere,” said Paul Krueger, dean ad interim, Lyle School of Engineering. “She brings with her a wealth of experience from several different academic institutions and service in the U.S. Air Force. She has a passion and drive for continuing to elevate our Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.” 

Smits is a member of the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Engineering Education and the Society of American Military Engineers. She is the recipient of numerous awards, honors and recognitions including the NSF Faculty Career Award and outstanding educator awards and fellowships from the U.S. Air Force Academy and Colorado School of Mines.

Over her career, Smits has published more than 70 peer-reviewed technical publications and served in a number of editorship roles, most notably as co-editor and science communication editor of Vadose Zone Journal and associate editor of the Journal of Hydrology. She has been invited to speak at more than 150 engagements, including industry and regulatory workshops on oil and gas leak detection and international engineering education symposiums.

Smits also has held several previous prominent positions in academia and the armed forces, most recently as professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, and as associate director of Environmental Engineering at the United States Air Force Academy. She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S Air Force Reserves.

Smits received her B.S. degree in environmental engineering from the United States Air Force Academy in 1999, her M.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2000, and her Ph.D. degree in environmental science and engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 2010.


About SMU 
SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and nearly 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, community and the world. 

About the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering 
SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, founded in 1925, is one of the oldest engineering schools in the Southwest. The school offers eight undergraduate and 29 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degrees, through the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Operations Research and Engineering Management; and Mechanical Engineering. Lyle students participate in programs in the unique Deason Innovation Gym, providing the tools and space to work on immersion design projects and competitions to accelerate leadership development and the framework for innovation; the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, helping students develop nontechnical skills to prepare them for leadership in diverse technical fields; the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, developing new methodologies for incorporating engineering education into K-12 schools; and the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, combining technological innovation with business expertise to address global poverty.