Jana Milford Combines Engineering with Law to Promote Good Environmental Policy

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Jana Milford

Mechanical Engineering

CU engineering students typically call her “professor,” but they might just as well start addressing her as “counselor.”

Jana Milford, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who has taught in the college since 1994, donned a backpack three years ago and returned to life as a student in the CU School of Law.  After passing the Colorado Bar in 2004, she is back in the mechanical engineering department teaching the core thermodynamics class to junior-level engineering students, while also working half-time as a senior scientist at Environmental Defense, a non-profit, non-governmental organization with some 300,000 members nationwide.

Her new second job allows Milford to combine her expertise in science, engineering, public policy, and law to analyze and promote good environmental policy based on solid scientific data. For Milford, that has been a long-term goal.

In the 1980s, after earning her doctorate in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, she worked at the U.S. Congressional Office on Technology Assessment, performing long-term studies on air pollution and climate change.  Unfortunately, Milford says, that office was later disbanded.

“The point was to give Congress some objective, technical information on which they could base policies. Now, it’s lobbyists on one side or the other that give them all of their technical information,” she says.

With 20 years experience in the study of air pollution, Milford says “the first step is to acknowledge and recognize the science.”

Since joining Environmental Defense in summer 2004, Milford has been working with Rocky Mountain National Park officials and their partners to document the sources and effects of air pollution on the park and develop appropriate responses. The work, Milford says, is particularly rewarding because “there’s a possibility of seeing something happen in response to the research.”

Milford, who directed the college’s Environmental Engineering Program from 1998 to 2001, also looks forward to incorporating her knowledge of environmental law and policy into courses at CU: “I think students have a real interest in this too,” she says.

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