Dr. Helen Muga
Teaching Area(s): Civil Engineering
Title: Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering
Courses Taught: Civil Engineering
About Dr. Muga
Dr. Muga is an expert in water and wastewater treatment and design, international development work and sustainability. Her scholarly research has been focused on the design of low-cost water and wastewater treatment, methods for assessing sustainable development and low-cost technologies for the developing world. She holds a Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University in environmental engineering.
Her research is focused on three major areas:
- Chemical, biological, and physical separation processes for water and wastewater treatment
- International development work, and
- Sustainable/green engineering
Her current research is focused alternative energy, primarily the use of methane as an energy source.
Being a former professional athlete for Papua New Guinea, I enjoy the competition and rising up to a challenge. Engineering is a highly-competitive field. The challenges of engineering are one reason I am in the field. The other reason is the humanitarian side in that I enjoy utilizing my skills and knowledge for the better good of society.
One of my proudest accomplishments was bringing in one of the largest grants (about $783,800) to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida. The funds are currently being used to support doctorate and master students at the University.
There are three main drivers of my teaching philosophy. The first is to encourage student learning in and out of the classroom. One of the things I like doing for my courses is a field trip where students can connect concepts learned in class when they see where and how it is applied. Second is to prepare students for the engineering profession. Students going into the civil engineering field have such a high responsibility to society; we have to make sure that buildings stand, bridges don’t collapse and our water is safe. As such, maintaining high standards in students’ assignments, presentations and projects is very important. The third driver is to prepare and expose students to the global challenges of their profession. Our future engineers will not only be dealing with problems within the country, but also outside of the United States. It is therefore imperative that we expose our students to the world.
Research in Costa Rica
One of my research projects this past summer was looking at a greywater treatment system for a site in Costa Rica. The project has gone from a summer assignment to a course project for my environmental engineering class this semester. The other project I am currently working on with one of our freshman students is the storage and transportation of biogas (methane) from biodigestors.
Best Part of the Job
There are two things I like about my job. The first being training the future generation engineers, and the second being the international component that I have been working hard on since starting here at Mount Union in fall of 2010.
I like most buildings on campus. The proximity and closeness of the buildings allows me to easily work with professors from other disciplines. This would otherwise be a daunting task at larger institutions.
Mount Union Engineering
With specific reference to engineering, Mount Union is unique because of the liberal arts education that our engineering students gain upon graduation. Mount Union’s Department of Engineering is also unique because of several innovative components built into our curriculum, one of them being the international component that all out engineering majors need to have prior to graduation.
Experience and Training
Mount Union really gives a student a well-rounded education experience and training in the student’s specific field and in the liberal arts.
B.S., Chemistry, University of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
M.S., Chemical Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, Australia
M.S., Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University
Ph.D., Environmental Engineering, Michigan Technological University
One of my research projects this past summer was looking at a greywater treatment system for a site in Costa Rica. The project has gone from a summer assignment to a course project for my environmental engineering class this semester.
- If You Could Teach Another Class
- Most likely a business course
- Favorite Quote or Motto
- One of my favorite phrases is from the movie Invictus. “We need inspiration, Francois, because in order to build our nation, we must all exceed our own expectations.” One of my mottos in life is to continually exceed my own expectations and to expect nothing less than the best I can be.
- Surprising Fact About Yourself
- I was a former track star for Papua New Guinea, where I am originally from. I ran the 100 m, 200 m, and 400 m. The highlight of my running career was leading the 4 x 100 women’s relay team back in 1999 in Guam to break the country’s national record. The record that my team set stood for about 8 years. Apart from English, I also speak three other languages.
- If You Weren’t a Professor
- I would definitely be in the political arena, either as a diplomat or a political figure specializing in international relations. I’ve always looked up to individual like Madeleine Albright, Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton. I truly admire these individuals. If I weren’t in the political arena, I would be running my own company.
- Places to Visit or Things to Do
- I would like to climb Mount Everest or K2 one day. I like to push the boundaries of what is possible and go where most people don’t go.
- Favorite Movie
- Invictus. It is such an inspirational movie.
- Favorite Book
- I have two favorite books, the first being Thick Face, Black Heart: The Warrior Philosophy for Conquering the Challenges of Business and Life by Chin-Ning Chu, and the second being The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
- Hobbies and Interests
- Traveling, learning about other cultures, and languages