Second prize awardee Colin Butler first became interested in engineering at a young age, thanks to a Lego collection that he used to build miniature Lego cities with intricate transportation systems and waterways. An interest in math and science in high school, as well as a passion for the environment and human infrastructure, led him to join UW CEE.
During his time in the department, Butler impressed faculty with his broad mastery of many subjects, his pivotal role as an undergraduate research assistant in the Mountain Hydrology Research Group and his commitment to volunteering and assuming leadership positions for a number of student-run organizations.
“My initial reaction to receiving the Hawkins Prize was an overwhelming sense of pride and joy for my accomplishments, the staff and faculty who have supported me, and the friends and family who have been by my side along the way,” Butler said.
Academically, faculty noted Butler’s wide-ranging excellence and his ability to excel in courses outside his primary environmental engineering focus, such as structural engineering classes. Butler also took classes outside of engineering through the honors program, participated in a study abroad program in Jordan and a research project in Antarctica.
“Colin’s basic mindset, intelligence, willingness to explore, ability to problem solve in both practical and theoretical contexts, leadership, and interest in contributing are in direct alignment with discoverers throughout history,” said one faculty member.
As an undergraduate research assistant in the Mountain Hydrology Research Group since 2014, Butler quickly became indispensable to the group in a short amount of time. He served as general lab manager, Web site manager and the point person for instrument upgrades and maintenance at the energy balance and snow measurement site near Snoqualmie Pass, where the team is studying the intermittent snow zone.
Volunteer activities included being involved in Engineers without Borders and serving as president of American Water Resources Association. Looking to improve campus life at a broader scale, Butler also volunteered as the sole student representative on the UW College of Engineering’s Council on Educational Policy (CEP). On the CEP, Butler provided feedback on a variety of topics likely to impact current and prospective students.
“I have been consistently impressed by the confidence and diplomacy with which he presents his views during our discussions, especially considering that he is the sole student on a committee comprising much more senior faculty and staff from the College of Engineering,” said one faculty member.
Following graduation, Butler will continue to work as a research assistant and field technician for the Mountain Hydrology Research Group through the summer. In the fall, he will join a hydrology and hydraulic engineering consulting firm, Watershed Science & Engineering, in Seattle. As a junior engineer, Butler will model rivers and floodplains, conduct flood and dam-break analyses and carry out watershed studies in the northwest.