Staff member smiling standing in a T-shirt in an African landscapeLaura MacDonald, PhD

Managing Director

Dr. Laura MacDonald is the Managing Director of the Mortenson Center and the Undergraduate Program. As part of her role as Managing Director of the Undergraduate Program, Laura resides in Stearns East with her husband Greg and their dog Citra and cat Wheeler.

Dr. MacDonald has a PhD and MS in Geography and Environmental Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and a BS in Environmental Engineering from Northwestern University. In her role as Managing Director of the Mortenson Center, Laura provides administrative and financial oversight of the Center's graduate certificate and Professional Master's programs. Additionally, she manages several research projects in Rwanda and provides support to the Mortenson Center's broader research portofolio in sub-Saharan Africa. She is a Board Member of Engineers in Action and has previously served on the Engineering for Change Innovation Lab Steering Committee.

Prior to joining the Mortenson Center, Laura was a Knowledge and Research Advisor at the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). There, she worked to build CAWST's reputation and credibility as a global leader in capacity development and technical support for non-networked water and sanitation. During her time at CAWST, Johns Hopkins and Northwestern, Laura's research spanned a range of topics, including household water treatment and water-vending kiosks in Ghana, capacity development of sanitation practitioners, and the geochemistry of arsenic in the Atacama Desert. This work took her to Panama, Colombia, Chile, Ghana, Kenya and Nepal. Throughout her studies, Laura was engaged with student groups focused on engineering and environmental education and outreach, including leadership roles in the Society of Women Engineers and Engineers for a Sustainable World.

Evan Thomas standing with Flatirons Mountain BackdropEvan Thomas, PhD, PE, MPH

Director, Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering

Dr. Evan Thomas is the Director of the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience and the Global Engineering Undergraduate Program, and holds the Mortenson Endowed Chair in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is a tenured Associate Professor jointly appointed in the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and the Aerospace Engineering Sciences Departments, and an affiliate faculty in Environmental and Occupational Health at the Colorado School of Public Health. Evan is a currently a member of the NASA and USAID SERVIR Applied Sciences Team.

Evan has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a registered Professional Engineer, and has a Masters in Public Health from the Oregon Health and Science University. 

Evan’s technical background is in water and air testing and treatment applied in developing communities through to operational spacecraft. He founded SweetSense Inc. which is supported by USAID and the National Science Foundation to develop and apply satellite connected sensors monitoring drinking water services. Daily, the team is monitoring millions of people’s water supplies across east Africa.

Evan’s research has been funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the World Bank, USAID, the UN Foundation, the CDC, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the Gates Foundation, and others.

As Chief Operating Officer of DelAgua Health from 2012-2016, Evan conceived, designed and directed a $25 million dollar public health intervention in Rwanda with the Government of Rwanda. The program reached 350,000 households with cookstoves and 102,000 households with water filters, in over 7,500 villages and 1.6 million people. 

Evan was previously an Associate Professor at Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University from 2010-2018 (asst prof. 2010-2016) founder of the SweetLab, and founding director of GlobalPDX. 

Evan was a civil servant at the NASA-Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas from 2004-2010. At NASA, Evan was a aerospace engineer working on microgravity fluid management technologies and water recovery systems for spacecraft hardware flying on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station.

Carlo Salivenlli standing in front of leavesCarlo Salvinelli, PhD

Teaching Assistant Professor

Dr. Carlo Salvinelli is a teaching assistant professor at the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience where he teaches courses on sustainable community development, fieldwork methods for development engineers, and humanitarian response and disaster management. He has a BS in Industrial Engineering and a MS in Engineering Management from the University of Brescia, Italy, and a PhD in Geological Engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology where he conducted research focused on household water treatment systems for developing communities.

Dr. Salvinelli spent six years working for international NGOs, especially in Central America, where he designed and implemented international development projects, facilitated international policy dialogues, and coordinated emergency response efforts. The projects he managed addressed key development challenges including water and sanitation access, rural electrification, development of income generating activities, natural resources management, and disaster risk reduction. Dr. Salvinelli received the distinguished thesis award “Appropriate technologies for environmental management in developing countries” from the CeTAmb LAB at University of Brescia. His research interests include appropriate solutions for developing communities and integrated biosystems for sustainable development.

Gunārs Platais, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor

Dr. Gunārs Platais is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience where he teaches Introduction to Development Economics for Engineers. He is leading the effort to update and adapt the Mortenson Center Graduate Certificate for online delivery. He also holds an affiliate faculty position with the Masters of the Environment program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gunārs has a BSc in Forest Engineering from his native Brazil, a MSc from Colorado State University in mathematical optimization of natural resources management and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in Wildland Resource Science where he focused on Natural Resource Economics and Policy.

Prior to joining the Mortenson Center Gunārs worked for 20 years at the World Bank where he focused on environmental and natural resource economics and environmental risk management. He led multidisciplinary teams in large lending operations such as the US$50 million Ecomarkets project in Costa Rica or the $US40 million Reflorestar project in Brazil. Before joining the World Bank, he worked as Policy advisor to the government on the US$20 million USAID funded Green Project in El Salvador. Under his leadership the country, that had recently signed the peace accords, ending the long civil war, promulgated its first environmental law.

Throughout his career he has undertaken analytical work and specialized in the integration of natural resource management and conservation in policy and decision-making processes. Interested in innovative financial instruments, he has been instrumental in introducing concepts such as Payment for Environmental Services (PES) at an operational level in the Global South. He has worked extensively throughout Latin America and provided cross-support to Bank teams in Asia, Africa and Europe. As a fully accredited environmental risk management specialist he worked on the application of environmental safeguards throughout multiple sectors (health, energy, water, transport, infrastructure).

Adria Ryan

Program Coordinator

Adria joined the RAP in its infancy and helped the first RAP director shape the community and bring engineers of all types together through their love of boardgames, Just Dance and candy.  A Native Boulderite, Adria enjoys community building through projects, problem solving and making. She engages the RAP students in all of these things and also facilitates their interests in mentorship, cultural exchanges and professional development.