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Welcome to the research and personal page of Dr. Susan K. Willis!

This site contains information about my work in four primary areas:
- Watershed Hydraulics and pollutant transport
- Physical Oceanography
- Data Science
- Drinking Water Quality

My goal is to understand and model the lifecycle of a water droplet, from watershed to river, to human consumption and natural waterway, to estuary and coastal ocean. In particular, I am interested in natural and anthropogenic pollutant transport processes and effects on humans and the environment.


My research career began with modeling pollutant transport in small suburban watersheds. In these environments, sediment, fertilizers, and runoff from industrial processes can impair natural waterways, clogging streams, affecting natural habitats, and leading to hypoxic conditions. An interest in fluid flow and dispersion of these pollutants led me to pursue a master's degree and doctorate in environmental engineering (UC Berkeley '10, '14), where I worked on turbulent mixing in the coastal ocean, the final destination for river and stream pollutants. For this work, I performed a number of observational field studies and collected large quantities of data to explore the underlying mechanisms causing mixing and transport.

Although I was able to make several interesting conclusions based on analysis of these datasets, I knew there was more. To learn the newest techniques and software used in industry, I spent the better part of two years working in data science- designing experiments, writing optimization algorithms, and analyzing consumer data.

The only missing piece to this puzzle was understanding how these pollutants affect our health, and how we have gone about trying to remove them from the water we drink, use, and clean with daily. All of these environmental impacts are important to trace in their own right, but for me, the ultimate goal is to serve and protect the public. To this end, my most recent position has been directing the Safe Drinking Water Act program at one of the country's largest utilities in San Jose, California. In this capacity, I worked with all stakeholders from consumers to engineers to regulators to maintain drinking water quality for a population of approximately 1 million.

Along this journey, I have worked with people from all walks of life, and spent time listening to the needs of communities large and small. The scientific vocabulary can be intimidating to many, so I've found ways to explain science in simple, interesting terms. I aim to be the scientist people turn to and trust.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you're interested in working together in the future!