When Scott Banjavcic was a kid, he wanted to be a meteorologist.
“I was fascinated by science, and in particular at that time, I was fascinated by weather,” he said. “In high school, I found a new love of physics, which led me to engineering. I ended up settling into water resources, which was a perfect combination of physics, civil engineering and my original love of the water cycle and weather.”
Banjavcic earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), specializing in environmental hydrology and hydraulics. During his master’s degree, he had the privilege of working on an international study of the Great Lakes and addressing an ongoing issue of decreasing lake levels.
Through this experience, he obtained a position at CDM Smith in Chicago, an innovative water resources and wastewater engineering firm. While there, Banjavcic played significant roles on many projects, including floodplain risk analysis, mapping, stakeholder outreach, sanitary and storm sewer model development to mitigate municipality sewer issues, design and implementation of multiple landscape and urban composting projects, green infrastructure plan development, and annual de-icing workshops to educate and prevent harmful impacts of chlorides on local waterways due to roadway salting. He is also an active member in the Illinois Water Environment Association as part of its Watershed Management Committee and a professional engineer licensed in Illinois.
But teaching offered him something that was missing from his work: the chance to inspire and direct the next generation of great engineers and innovators.
“My students make the job very worthwhile and a lot of fun,” he said. “I feel the purpose of academia in this age of constant technological change is to teach people how to adapt and apply skills and knowledge from one area of their lives to other areas. That is the essence of being a critical thinker, which is a skill that is the future of the engineering field and society in general. If I can somehow start the wheels of critical thinking moving in a student’s brain, then that is the best service I can offer them.”
In 2018, Banjavcic achieved his Ph.D. from UIUC, which he accomplished while teaching full-time at COD. His research focused on innovative methodologies for determining a three-dimensional water velocity map in streams and rivers. He said determining velocities for open channels is critical for mapping pollution transport, determining scour and sedimentation issues, and improving habitat for fish and other macro-invertebrates.
Banjavcic finds inspiration in people who are good at their work and love what they do.
“I have been inspired by all kinds of people, including mentors I had while working in industry, teachers I have learned from, and even musicians at my church or doctors at my doctor’s office. Truly inspiring people constantly try to improve even skills they are good at just because they have an innate drive to expand the boundaries of what is possible.”