Donna Riley, PH.D.
Associate Professor of Engineering
Donna Riley's technical research combines methods in engineering and the social sciences to characterize and communicate chemical risk. She seeks to integrate quantitative modeling of chemical risks (from sources to exposure endpoints) with an understanding of the ways in which human beliefs and behavior influence risk. Past projects have involved characterizing the risks of mercury use as part of religious and folk traditions in Latino and Caribbean communities, and developing improved consumer-product warnings. She is currently collaborating with Professor Shizuka Hsieh in Chemistry on developing a community-based air quality research lab serving groups in Western Massachusetts.
At Smith, Riley has developed a second area of expertise in engineering education. In 2005 Riley received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for implementing pedagogies of liberation, based on the work of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, and others, into engineering education. Aspects of liberative pedagogies that are operationalized in Riley's classrooms include connecting course material to student experience, emphasizing students as authorities in the classroom, integrating ethics and policy considerations in the context of social justice, problematizing science as objectivity, and de-centering western (and male) civilization.
Her work capitalizes on the intimate, creative and collaborative environment at Smith, where intentional learners grow into critical thinkers and reflective actors. She has developed these classroom innovations into a book of educational modules (Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems: A Textbook Companion for Student Engagement, Morgan and Claypool, 2012).
In 2008, Riley published Engineering and Social Justice [Morgan and Claypool], encouraging all engineers to seek social change. She is active in the engineering, social justice and peace network (esjp.org).
In 2012, Riley received the Sterling Olmsted Award, the highest award given by the Liberal Education/Engineering and Society Division of the American Society of Engineering Education.
Riley's extramural activities include running, knitting, hiking, and spending time with her cat Raven..
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