The 2022 Research Scientist’s Career Achievement Award goes to Steve Wilson. Steve began his career at the Water Survey more than 30 years ago, as an undergraduate student hourly. Now as a groundwater hydrologist, Steve leads two programs that have significant nationwide impact on the safety of drinking water: The Private Well Class, which provides self-paced online training for private well owners and professionals who support them, and WaterOperator.org, a user-friendly online resource hub for water and wastewater operators that is geared towards supporting small systems. He has dedicated his career to providing outstanding support to primarily rural water users, both in Illinois and across the country. Steve is also one of this year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Academic Professional Excellence (CAPE) Award.
"It’s very rewarding to be recognized for doing work that I love and enjoy so much," said Wilson, "I had a chance to speak at the CAPE awards ceremony and I found myself talking about the ISWS, its history, and the opportunities it has provided. I am proud to work at the ISWS, we really have an amazing history, and I want people to understand what a great place it really is and how unique it is."
Because of his expertise, Steve is in demand as a speaker and advisor; in 2019, for example, he was asked to be part of the planning committee for a National Academy of Sciences workshop on rural water system issues, and he recently was asked to lead a working group of state drinking water agencies to develop a national portal for sharing testing data from new technology trials. Water Survey colleagues praised Steve as a “hard-working team player.” He has been leading data management and outreach efforts for several years and recently designed a new program to reflect an increasing focus on the intersection of water resources and public health.
In nominating Wilson, Walt Kelly, head of the groundwater science section wrote, "The main reason I want to nominate Steve for this award is the extraordinary service he has given to the nation, state, and local communities, especially with respect to (1) work on assisting people who get their drinking water from private wells, and (2) water and wastewater system operators in small towns or on tribal lands. His work includes both applied scientific research and interacting and communicating with the general public and government officials."
But perhaps Steve's greatest contribution to the state lies in his mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior colleagues at ISWS.
Steve has directly supervised more than 25 student employees and about 10 academic hourlies. Several former hourly and student employees have moved onto careers in related fields, in part because of positive experience working on Steve's projects. Recently, one of Steve's student hourlies, Hideyuki Terashima, showed so much promise that he now has a full-time salaried position supported by Steve's grants. Steve's mentorship of Hideyuki was instrumental in helping him develop and improve his skills, and he has become a valued and productive member of the groundwater section and ISWS.
Listen to the Illinois Professional podcast interview with Wilson.