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Civil Engineering

David R. Steward | Professor

Photo of David R. StewardThomas and Connie Paulson Civil Engineering Outstanding Faculty Award

Post-Doctoral Research - University of Maine
Marine Sciences
Post-Doctoral Research - University of Minnesota
Civil Engineering
Ph.D. - University of Minnesota
Civil Engineering
M.S. - University of Minnesota
M.S. - University of Minnesota
Civil Engineering
B.S. - University of Minnesota
Civil Engineering

Contact Information

2129 Fiedler Hall

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Professional Experience

Professor David R. Steward received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He then worked for six years as a system programmer at Unisys, in the areas of B1 security testing and design of executive software for IP/memory hardware fault control for mainframe computers. He returned to the University of Minnesota to pursue studies of groundwater flow and engineering mathematics, where he received a Master of Science in both Civil Engineering and Mathematics, and a doctorate degree in civil engineering.  Advances were made in modeling and analysis of three-dimensional flows using an emerging framework called the Analytic Element Method, and he wrote computer software for NAGROM, the national groundwater model of The Netherlands. Upon completion of his doctorate, he remained at the University of Minnesota for six months as a post-doctoral research associate, developing computer models for the EPA’s CZAEM (Capture Zone using the Analytic Element Method). He then worked for one year as a post-doc at the University of Maine in coastal engineering, where he developed code for the finite element model CGWAVE to improve model boundary conditions for wave reflections along a coast.  Professor Steward joined Kansas State University in the department of civil engineering, where he leads interdisciplinary teams to study water resources, and teaches courses in groundwater flow and analysis, hydraulics, engineering mathematics, and water-and-society.  He is licensed as a Professional Engineer and a Professional Geoscientist, and holds the endowed title of Thomas and Connie Paulson Civil Engineering Outstanding Faculty Member at Kansas State University.


Professor Steward leads a research program addressing the grand challenge of water resources for society through two complementary approaches.  The first is development of advanced methods of mathematical analysis for engineering problems using the Analytic Element Method.  The AEM has emerged over 25 years of groundwater studies, and enables nearly exact solutions to study the interactions of closely placed objects, e.g., the impacts of interacting fractures that preferentially attract water through groundwater regions.  Professor Steward is advancing these methods towards applications in related fields of study with similar mathematical foundations, and is teaching courses in these areas.  A second research area is interdisciplinary water resources studies.  Professor Steward has collaborated with colleagues across colleges of agriculture, architecture, arts & sciences, education, engineering, and veterinary medicine.  These endeavors have been funded by over $15 million in research grants, where Dr. Steward has served as lead or co-principal investigator from funding agencies such as NSF, USDA, US EPA, and many other local and international agencies and consulting firms.  Discovery of the critical factors that control water resources systems have been identified through these collective interactions, and results have been communicated with a wide range of water stakeholders.

Academic Highlights

Dr. Steward has co-authored over 35 journal manuscripts and 20 conferences publications.  He has made over 40 invited presentations across broad venues such as the plenary session of the 57th Midwest Groundwater Conference, and the inaugural Ogallala Aquifer Project Invited Presentation.  Professor Steward and his students have made well over 100 conference presentations with students winning awards in the 2015 Governor’s Water and the Future Conference and the 2016 graduate forum at K-State.  The key to dissemination of his research is meeting with and giving interviews to almost 200 agencies such as NPR, National Geographic, Circle of Blue, the Economist and regional radio stations.  He was awarded the 2014 Frankenhoff Outstanding Research Award, a peer-chosen award given to the faculty member who is the best researcher in the College of Engineering at Kansas State University. Professor Steward is highly regarded as an educator, often with the highest ratings in terms of quality of education and attitude towards students.  Professor Steward believes the key to educational successes is bring the most recent technological advances to the classroom, and preparing our next generation of engineers for the challenges they will face in providing water infrastructure for society.