I am a firm believer that students learn best by doing, and that's how I teach. We work on solving problems together. I try to keep them interested and engaged by showing them the possibilities of engineering.

Mike Malusis wants his students to know that it's okay to be excited about engineering. "Ours is a profession that directly and tangibly benefits society," says the associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and alumnus of the Bucknell Class of 1993. "Our overall goal is to make people's lives better. That's something to be excited about."

Take as an example that Malusis' primary research involves environmental geotechnics. He is experimenting with ways to integrate clay nanoparticles into polymer (plastic) sheets that are used in the liner and cover systems of landfills. The conventional polymer sheets used in landfills, when installed properly, are effective for containing liquid and metal contaminants in landfill waste, but many organic contaminants can pass through the sheets quite readily. "Our objective is to create a superior barrier that outperforms the conventional polymer sheets," he says of his research.

Malusis, a licensed professional engineer, worked in industry for several years before transitioning to a career in academia in 2005, when he joined the faculty of his undergraduate alma mater. He continues to work as a consulting engineer "to keep fresh" in the field. His ability to share his real-world experiences enlivens what the students are learning in the classroom, enabling them to see beyond the "what" of engineering to understand the "how's" and "why's."

"A big part of what drew me to Bucknell was the institution's focus on student-centered learning," Malusis says. "I am a firm believer that students learn best by doing, and that's how I teach. We work on solving problems together. I try to keep them interested and engaged by showing them the possibilities of engineering."

As engaging as he finds the practice of engineering, Malusis says that he finds teaching to be even more rewarding. "My contribution to training young people in civil engineering is a bigger legacy to leave behind than any other engineering work I could do."

Posted Sept. 20, 2011

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