Challenge of providing clean water drives this engineer


Edward J. Machek Jr. is pursuing advanced degrees for the same reason he does Olympic weightlifting: “To test my limits.”

And whether he’s in the lab or in the gym, this future environmental engineer always asks himself the same question: “What can I learn from this experience and how will it help me tomorrow?”

Eddie Machek

Edward J. Machek Jr.

His desire to challenge himself has served Machek well through years of classes, research opportunities and cooperative education work assignments, as he told UA's Board of Trustees during a recent presentation on his Akron Experience.

Next up: a doctorate

He will graduate in 2015 with an M.S. in Civil Engineering, after earning a B.S. in Civil Engineering, magna cum laude here in August 2013. By this time next year, Machek will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at one of the several schools he’s applied to around the country. His long-term goal is to become a professor at a research university or to work in research for the government or in the private sector.

Machek’s research focus will be on constructed wetlands. These newly created or restored wildlife habitats have the potential to provide a natural way to clean and reclaim water supplies.

It’s an interest he developed at the undergraduate level as he assisted Dr. Stephen Duirk, an assistant professor of civil engineering, with his safe drinking water research. As a graduate student, Machek has done research on pharmaceuticals as precursors in formation of disinfection by-products (DBPs).

Natural vs. manmade

“Using constructed wetlands, with the plants and the nutrients, can help us deal in a natural way, rather than in a chemical way, with the problems created by other chemicals,” explains Machek. “Taking a biological approach may be slower, but more efficient and more viable in the long run.”


Edward J. Machek Jr., far right, is pictured at the October Board of Trustees meeting with, from left, Student Trustee Garrett Dowd, Courtney Ou, a double major in marketing management and supply chain management, who also spoke at the meeting, and Student Trustee Matthew Hull.

While he’s looking forward to what is next, Machek says he’s very grateful for the opportunities he was given at UA. “Through my Akron Experience, I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and in my value as a person, and my willingness to take on challenges,” he notes.

The Springfield High School graduate had a lot to prove when he entered UA in 2009 with a 2.0 GPA. He wasted no time in doing just that — earning a 3.7 at the end of his first semester and gaining admission to the Honors College.

"The College of Engineering is a community," says Machek who joined the concrete canoe and steel bridge design teams, tutored students on a variety of subjects in Bierce Library and led study sessions in the Civil Engineering Lounge.

Ready to make contributions

His drive to help others is a big key to his success, says Dr. Teresa Cutright, an associate professor of civil engineering, whom Machek regards as a mentor. He has helped with her research into improving the longevity of road surfaces.

“Eddie is the student that every faculty dreams of,” says Cutright. “He has an exceptional work ethic, a keen intellect that enables him to quickly grasp difficult concepts without dampening his pursuit for knowledge, as well as an amazing capacity to help others. I am confident he will make a phenomenal professor.”