One of UC Merced's earliest Ph.D. recipients has another first under his belt; he is the first graduate to be hired in a tenure-track faculty position. In August, Glenn D. Shaw started as an assistant professor in geological engineering at Montana Tech of the University of Montana in Butte.
Shaw will contribute the expertise in hydrology he gained at UC Merced, where he earned a doctorate in 2009. He specializes in using chemical tracers to determine the age and composition of ground and surface water — research he plans to continue at Montana Tech.
"I'm looking forward to studying local groundwater basins," Shaw said. "There are areas where we could learn a lot about how land use change will impact the water supply using techniques from my previous work."
Prior to his hiring as assistant professor, Shaw spent several months as an assistant research professor at the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology on the Montana Tech campus. There, he worked on a statewide effort to quantify and understand water supplies in areas where demands are increasing rapidly.
"Water is a big issue all over the West," Shaw said. "In Montana, we're concerned about rapid urbanization and changing agricultural demands. Those issues are familiar after my years in the Central Valley."
Shaw's dissertation project under Professor Martha Conklin at UC Merced involved several years of sampling creeks and springs in Yosemite National Park, then chemically analyzing the water at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to determine the age and origin of the water flowing into the Upper Merced River.
Moving into his new position, he's also maintaining ties with the U.S. Forest Service in Clovis, where fellow UC Merced graduate school alumni Ricardo Cisneros and Don Schweizer are pursuing research in air quality and impacts over mountain lakes. Shaw worked with them there through much of 2009.
"The connections I built while at UC Merced will undoubtedly be important for many years to come in my career," Shaw said.
He's especially glad to be at a university with a strong focus on teaching. He discovered a passion for the classroom as a teaching assistant and then an instructor for the environmental engineering course for non-majors "The Environment in Crisis" at UC Merced.
"Being in the classroom energizes me," Shaw said. "At UC Merced, teaching basic concepts to beginning students helped me see the big picture of my research. Here at Tech, I mostly teach upper-division and graduate-level courses that are really testing my knowledge and providing new insights on how I might tackle future research projects.
"I do miss my students from UC Merced," Shaw said, "But the students here in Butte are also great."
Coincidentally, Shaw has deep roots in his new area. His grandfather graduated from Montana Tech in the 1930s, then owned and operated the Butte Machinery Company, supplying the Butte mines in their heyday. Now his grandson enjoys teaching his own children about their Montana heritage.
"Butte feels like home," Shaw said. "After our great experience in Merced, that's really saying something."