students walk on University of Idaho campus

Visit UI

Learn about the many reasons the University of Idaho could be a perfect fit for you. Schedule Your Visit

Parents on campus during orientation

Homecoming Oct. 1-7

Join other Vandal families for a week of celebration and Vandal traditions. View Calendar

campus full of students

UI Retirees Association

UIRA has a membership of nearly 500 from every part of the University. Learn More

Locations

UI College of Engineering

Mailing Address:

Janssen Engineering (JEB) Room 125
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1011
Moscow, ID 83844-1011

Phone: 208-885-6470

Fax: 208-885-6645

Email: deanengr@uidaho.edu

Web: College of Engineering

UI Boise Engineering

Mailing Address:

Idaho Water Center 
322 E. Front Street 
Boise, ID 83702

Phone: 208-364-6123

Fax: 208-364-3160

Email: denisee@uidaho.edu

Web: Boise Engineering

UI Idaho Falls Engineering

Physical Address:

1776 Science Center Drive, Suite 306
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402

Phone: 208-757-5400

Fax: 208-282-7929

Email: ui-if@uidaho.edu

Web: Idaho Falls Engineering

UI CDA Computer Science

Physical Address:
1031 N. Academic Way, Suite 242
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Phone: 208-292-2509

Email: npreece@uidaho.edu

Web: UI Coeur d'Alene

Engineering Outreach

Physical Address:

Engineering Physics (EP) Building, Room 312
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1014
Moscow, ID 83844-1014

Phone: 208-885-6373

Fax: 208-885-9249

Email: outreach@uidaho.edu

Web: Engineering Outreach

Engineering for the World

Nate Suhr
Nate Suhr.

Chemical engineering graduate combines education, international service

To Nate Suhr, helping people in remote villages learn about water filtration isn’t just humanitarian work — it’s science education.

Suhr, who graduates from the University of Idaho this semester with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, is past-president of UI’s student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit group that connects engineers with communities in need around the world.

"I can’t focus on a billion people without water, but I can focus on 300 people without water. It gives me a manageable bite of a global problem."

In 2012, Suhr spent several weeks working with Engineers Without Borders in Bolivia, where he and a team of students helped a community improve its water sanitation.

His experience on the trip has helped inspire him to continue his education with a master’s in civil engineering. He plans to write his thesis about the educational and social aspects of working with developing communities on engineering projects.

"In humanitarian work, there’s a lot of focus on the effect of it on the professors and the students. But there’s not a lot of talk about the effects of it on the people," he says.

A National Science Foundation fellowship will fund Suhr’s graduate studies in exchange for his work as a physical sciences teacher at Jenifer Junior High School in Lewiston. Suhr is one of just 10 students nationwide to receive the fellowship.

Water purity in Chiwirapi
Testing water purity.

Suhr — who plans to stay involved in Engineers Without Borders during graduate school — quickly connected with the people in Bolivia and saw the how science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education ties to humanitarian work.

His team’s first task in the village of Chiwirapi was testing water quality using portable petri dishes that could show the presence of E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria. To keep the dishes at the right temperature for bacteria to grow, the team had to move them throughout the day and keep them warm at night.

"At night they were in a Ziploc bag, and I just put it them in my shirt and slept with them," Suhr says.

When the bacteria grew, demonstrating the water’s contamination, he showed the dishes to one of the village’s elected leaders, Eloy.

"He could see the little colonies of bacteria, and see this is what’s happening," he says.

Eloy’s 18-month-old daughter had recently been sickened by contaminants, and he immediately responded to the visual evidence in the petri dishes. He called the whole community together to talk to the Engineers Without Borders team about well protection.

Nate Suhr with Engineers without borders in Chiwirapi, Bolivia
Nate Suhr with Engineers without borders in Chiwirapi, Bolivia.

The people of Chiwirapi maintain contact with the Engineers Without Borders team, and they’ve developed a give-and-take relationship that started when the team first visited the village and learned from the people.

"You can have this idea in your head of what the needs are, but until you talk to somebody and go to their house, you have no idea," Suhr says.

Suhr isn’t certain what his future will be post-graduate school, but he hopes to continue focusing on appropriate, sustainable ways to use his engineering skills to help people around the world.

"The reason I do this is there are all kinds of problems everywhere. It doesn’t matter what country, there’s poverty, there’s hunger, there’s people without access to clean water," he says.

I can’t focus on a billion people without water, but I can focus on 300 people without water. It gives me a manageable bite of a global problem."

Article by Tara Roberts, University Communications & Marketing

Locations

UI College of Engineering

Mailing Address:

Janssen Engineering (JEB) Room 125
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1011
Moscow, ID 83844-1011

Phone: 208-885-6470

Fax: 208-885-6645

Email: deanengr@uidaho.edu

Web: College of Engineering

UI Boise Engineering

Mailing Address:

Idaho Water Center 
322 E. Front Street 
Boise, ID 83702

Phone: 208-364-6123

Fax: 208-364-3160

Email: denisee@uidaho.edu

Web: Boise Engineering

UI Idaho Falls Engineering

Physical Address:

1776 Science Center Drive, Suite 306
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402

Phone: 208-757-5400

Fax: 208-282-7929

Email: ui-if@uidaho.edu

Web: Idaho Falls Engineering

UI CDA Computer Science

Physical Address:
1031 N. Academic Way, Suite 242
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814

Phone: 208-292-2509

Email: npreece@uidaho.edu

Web: UI Coeur d'Alene

Engineering Outreach

Physical Address:

Engineering Physics (EP) Building, Room 312
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1014
Moscow, ID 83844-1014

Phone: 208-885-6373

Fax: 208-885-9249

Email: outreach@uidaho.edu

Web: Engineering Outreach