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Letcher native is first woman to hold position




Dr. M. Katherine Banks

Dr. M. Katherine Banks

Dr. M. Katherine Banks, formerly of Whitesburg, has been appointed vice chancellor for engineering for the Texas A&M University System and dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University — the first woman to ever hold the position.

Banks, 51, also holds the Harold J. “Bill” Haynes Dean’s Chair in Engineering and is director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, an engineering research agency of the State of Texas and a member of the A&M System.

Banks, who began her duties Jan. 10, says she is looking forward to the opportunity to serve.

“I am honored to be selected as the vice chancellor of engineering for the Texas A&M System, dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering and director of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station position,” she said. “The dedication of the Texas A&M community to excellence in research, teaching and engagement is quite remarkable. I look forward to collaborating with A&M System institutions and state agencies to develop new educational and research initiatives. As dean of the college of engineering, I am excited to work closely with the internationally recognized faculty and staff to produce a strong workforce of engineering graduates, enhance innovative research opportunities and develop new partnerships through unique engagement programs.”

Banks was previously the Bowen Engineering Head for the School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University and the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor at Purdue. While at Purdue, she was in charge of about 1,000 students and 59 faculty members. At A&M she will be in charge of more than 1,000 students and nearly 400 faculty members.

“I enjoy challenges,” Banks told The Eagle newspaper of Bryan- College Station, Texas recently. “My husband and I have six children, so we’re used to the chaos.”

Banks, who grew up in Whitesburg, said she never even met an engineer until she moved away. “I enjoyed math and physics,” she said. “A friend of mine in college convinced me to try it and I was hooked.”

Her field of study is wastewater and water treatment.

Banks earned her bachelor’s in environmental engineering from the University of Florida in 1982, a master’s in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1985, and doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Duke University in 1989.. She has received research funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA, as well as industry and state government. She served as director of the EPA Hazardous Substance Research Center, associate director of the NASA Center for Advanced Life Support, and co-director of the 21st Century Center for Phytoremediation Research, all headquartered at Purdue.

Banks is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and is a licensed professional civil engineer in Indiana and Kansas. She received a number of awards including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Petersen Outstanding Woman of the Year Award, ASCE Rudolph Hering Medal and the Sloan Foundation Mentoring Fellowship. She is the author or co-author of more than 150 journal articles, proceedings papers, book chapters and has given more than 200 scholarly or technical presentations before professional groups. Banks served as editor-in-chief for the ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineering and associate editor of the International Journal of Phytoremediation.

Banks is the daughter of Estill and Peggy Banks, also formerly of Whitesburg.


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