Tell us about your current career position.
I am an Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. I am active in environmental biotechnology research. My ongoing research focuses on emerging micropollutants, biosensing, renewable energy, and sustainability. I teach courses in water and wastewater treatment. I am also affiliated with the Ceramic Filter Project at the University of Pittsburgh.
What are the key experiences and decisions you made that have helped you reach your current position?
I decided to pursue a career in academia as result of mentoring that I received during my undergraduate experience. I decided to work before pursuing a PhD in order to gain experience and make an informed decision about my research focus.
How did you first become interested in science?
My high school counselor was the first to inspire me to focus on science.
Were there times when you failed at something you felt was critical to your path? If so, how did you regroup and get back on track?
When I was working as an environmental engineer, I initially worked on projects that were not intellectually challenging. This was a source of frustration for me. I decided to ask for more challenging work, and I waited patiently. Ultimately, I was involved in more interesting engineering projects.
What advice would you give to young persons from under-represented backgrounds who want to pursue a career in science similar to yours?
I would suggest that they focus on doing their best.
What are your hobbies?
Chess, talking to friends on the phone, exercise
What was the last book you read?
Do you have any heroes, heroines, or role models? If so, describe how they have influenced you?
I have a large number of role models. They encourage me to do the right thing and trust my instincts.
What is it that keeps you working hard and studying science every day?
I want to see what my best work looks like.
For additional information about Willie Harper, Jr., go to: http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/ProfessionalProfile.aspx?id=2147485426