Staff member standing in front of mountains on a nice day wearing black shirt
Managing Director
Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience • Global Engineering Residential Academic Program

Dr. Laura MacDonald is the Managing Director of the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering & Resilience and the Global Engineering Residential Academic Program. She holds a PhD 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, Laura manages the Mortenson Center's large-scale research program in Rwanda and provides support to the Mortenson Center's broader research portfolio in sub-Saharan Africa and the western US. Laura also provides administrative, programming and financial oversight of the Climate Innovation Collaboratory and the Mortenson Center's graduate and undergraduate education programs. 

Laura is currently a member of the Steering Committee for United Campus Workers Colorado. Previously, she has served on the Board of Engineers in Action and the Engineering for Change Innovation Lab Steering Committee.

Prior to joining the Mortenson Center, Laura was 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.


  • PhD in Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • BS in Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University

Recent Publications

Macharia, D.; MacDonald, L.; Mugabo, L.; Donovan, K.; Brooks, W.; Gudissa, S.; Noriega, A.; Barstow, C.; Dickinson, K.; Thomas, E. Mixed methods study design, pre-analysis plan, process evaluation and baseline results of trailbridges in rural Rwanda. Science of the Total Environment 2022, 838 (4), 156546.

MacDonald, L.; Thomas, E.; Javernick-Will, A.; Austin-Breneman, J.; Aranda, I.; Salvinelli, C.; Klees, R.; Walters, J.; Parmentier, M. J.; Schaad, D.; Shahi, A.; Bedell, E.; Platais, G.; Brown, J.; Gershenson, J.; Watkins, D.; Obonyo, E.; Oyanedel-Craver, V.; Olson, M.; Lau, R.; Rao, G.; Arzon, A.; Krishnaswamy, K.; Pickering, A. J.; Mabey, C.; Johnson, A.; Gehr, R.; Linden, K. Aligning Learning Objectives and Approaches in Global Engineering Graduate Programs: Review and Recommendations by an Interdisciplinary Working Group. Development Engineering 2022, 7, 100095.

Thomas, E.; Salvinelli, C.; Harper, J.; MacDonald, L.; Klees, R.; Platais, G.; Javernick-Will, A.; Linden, K. A Body of Knowledge and Pedagogy for Global Engineering. IJSLE 2021, 16 (1), 37–57.

Thomas, E.; Bradshaw, A.; Mugabo, L.; MacDonald, L.; Brooks, W.; Dickinson, K.; Donovan, K. Engineering Environmental Resilience: A Matched Cohort Study of the Community Benefits of Trailbridges in Rural Rwanda. Science of The Total Environment 2021, 771, 145275.

Bradshaw, A.; Mugabo, L.; Gebremariam, A.; Thomas, E.; MacDonald, L. Integration of Household Water Filters with Community-Based Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion—A Process Evaluation and Assessment of Use among Households in Rwanda. Sustainability 2021, 13 (4), 1615.