Mark A. Widdowson has been appointed head of the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, effective as of April 25, 2020. Widdowson assumes the role after serving as interim department head since last July and as assistant department head from 2009 to 2019.

As he leads the department, Widdowson will provide administrative oversight and guide its efforts to provide students and faculty with a high-quality educational environment, research opportunities linked to contributions to society at large, and outlets for leadership and service.

"The Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is one of the nation’s top programs,” said Widdowson. “I am absolutely honored to serve in this capacity. I am excited to work with our outstanding students, faculty, staff, and alumni as we build upon our rich history and a commitment to excellence in instruction, research, and service to our profession and the commonwealth.”

Widdowson has been a member of the Virginia Tech community since 1993, when he joined the civil and environmental engineering faculty in the environmental and water resources program area with a focus on groundwater and water resources. His research activities include studying the fate and transport of chemicals of concern in the subsurface, as well as groundwater resource management.

Widdowson is the author and principal investigator of the software tools SEAM3D and NAS, used widely by the Department of Defense and federal and state agencies. He also serves as a private sector contractor, evaluating strategies to meet environmental remediation objectives at Superfund and other sites. Widdowson has received approximately $5.3 million in external funding for his research, with a personal share of $3.9 million.

Widdowson is the co-director of the Potomac Aquifer Recharge Monitoring Laboratory. He served on the Science Advisory Board for the Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT, Hampton Roads Sanitation District) and served as the state’s technical expert to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission of Virginia on the sustainability of groundwater supply in the Eastern Virginia Groundwater Management Area. Widdowson has also provided scientific peer review of public policy on soil vapor intrusion of buildings for the California State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Under Widdowson’s leadership, the department has continued to be top ranked by U.S. News & World Report, with the undergraduate program at No. 9 and with graduate program rankings of No. 9 and No. 7 in civil engineering and in environmental engineering, respectively.

"The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has a long history of strength at Virginia Tech," said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. "Mark is absolutely the right person to lead this high-performing group to new levels. He has the vision, the enthusiasm, the experience, and a deep knowledge of Virginia Tech. I am thrilled to add Mark’s talents to the College of Engineering leadership team."

Prior to his interim role, Widdowson served as the assistant department head and coordinator of the environmental and water resources program area in the civil and environmental engineering department. As assistant department head, he directed a multiyear, faculty-led study abroad program in the Dominican Republic involving over 50 students and spearheaded diversity and inclusion initiatives, including partnering with the College of Engineering New Horizons Graduate Scholars Program.

During his time at Virginia Tech, Widdowson has received numerous accolades, including the Samuel Arnold Greeley Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers Environmental and Water Resources Institute, the College of Engineering’s Certificate of Teaching Excellence, and the Outstanding Civil Engineering Faculty award.

As a teacher, Widdowson has invested his time and energy in seeking out opportunities for his students to engage in experiential learning through study abroad programs and other avenues. He has taught courses in fluid mechanics, groundwater resources, water resources planning and management, and computer modeling of subsurface fluid flow and chemical fate and transport. In 2016, Widdowson was honored as the recipient of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Teaching Excellence Award based on nominations by his former students.

Widdowson earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s degree in water resources engineering from the University of Kansas, and a doctorate degree in civil engineering from Auburn University.

- Written by Suzanne Irby and Courtney Sakry