Meet Dr. Glenn Shaw

Dr Glenn Shaw

Geological Engineering

Professor and Department Head 

Before coming to Butte and Montana Technological University, where did you call home?

I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, which I always called my home until moving to Butte. 

What inspired you to teach?

My father was a professor while growing up at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. My two older brothers are also professors in physics and electrical engineering at Michigan Technological University and Montana State University respectively. I helped teach the last two years of my undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University, the two years while working on an M.S. at the University of Utah, and for 4 or 5 years while working on my Ph.D. at the University of California, Merced. I love doing research, but my teaching days were my favorite days. 

What drew you to Montana Technological University?

Many people looking for faculty jobs don’t really get to go to the school they want. Sometimes not even the region of the country they want. I was lucky to get Montana Tech as the school that chose me to be part of the faculty in Geological Engineering. It has always felt like coming home in a strange way because my parents grew up in Butte, and my grandfather (Joseph E. Shaw) received both a B.S. (’39) and M.S. (’40) in Metallurgical Engineering. He was always proud of Butte and the "School of Mines". My understanding is that he was President of the Alumni Association at the time the M was undergoing construction for lighting. 

What is your favorite part of teaching?  

Glenn Shaw - field campI once had a graduate student text me, saying, "I love how you are totally chill with everything. But you have standards". I took that to mean that I care about student learning, and I love watching students latch on to ideas and get interested in a field. Of course, it’s rewarding when it’s my field, but any field that inspires the young generation is exciting to me. I believe this student’s comments about having standards meant that I add enough rigor so that students can take material from courses and apply them to future projects. Each class is like getting to know a new person, with its own characteristics. My favorite part of teaching is when you have a class that is really motivated and excited about the material.

Are you currently involved in research and can you share some details?

About 2 or 3 years ago, I began focusing most of my research efforts investigating the hydrology and some biogeochemistry along Blacktail Creek in the Highlands. My sites were restored using beaver mimicry structures because beaver had previously been trapped out. These small structures are designed to create natural riffle pool environments that store water and reconnect the river with the floodplain. I am setting up some monitoring east of Galen, MT next month and plan to get a new series of graduate students to do similar projects, but on a larger scale along the river to see how effective these restoration efforts are for storing water during spring snowmelt, and providing higher flows in the late summer when streams are dryer. This is fascinating to me because it has so much potential to influence the entire ecosystem. I have teamed up with Tech faculty in Biology, Environmental Engineering, Geophysics, and have worked with many students during the process. The new sites will allow me to collaborate with a couple of faculty from the University of Montana, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, and some people from state, private, and grassroots organizations.

What are your favorite things about living and working in Butte and Southwest Montana?

To me, Butte America is like living in heaven. I couldn’t have gotten luckier than landing a faculty position at Montana Tech. The teaching/research load for faculty is ideal for my interests. The town has a rich history. I grew up listening to my dad tell me stories about growing up in Butte during its heyday. The scenery and access to the outdoors are amazing. The people are diverse and overall, they are kind.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of work?

I am a single dad, and I really enjoy it when my kids are with me. The summers they are with me most and I like being home with them. I like to hike and walk and think. I have reserved about 5 locations in or near Butte that I have labeled my thinking spots. Sometimes I stop by them for just 5 or 10 minutes on my way to and from running around.

I have been a volunteer DJ for the local community station KBMF for 5 years now. I play my two hours per week of old school punk, ska, and postpunk music.

If you could share one piece of advice with incoming students, what would it be?

Take school seriously but have fun. Most importantly, make sure you pick a field that you can and will love. 

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