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Dean for Research, Rhea L. Williamson, Ph.D


Student Funding Opportunities: How You Can Help Them Find Support Presentation prepared by Dean Williamson.

Welcome from the Dean

In my over 22 years of being a member of the faculty or administration at SJSU, CSU East Bay, and now HSU, my most memorable experiences have been related to student success in research. It is such a wonderful feeling to actually participate in what some call the “a-ha” moment, when the lights come on and the points are connected.  It makes the hard work of being a professor or research administrator all the more worthwhile.  Research also contributes to a faculty member’s sense of success and well-being. The challenges and successes of the research process for both faculty and students contribute to a university that is vibrant, whole, exciting, and successful.

So, what do I know about Humboldt State University’s vision for research?  I know from our Mission and Core Value statements that “We strive to create an inclusive environment of free inquiry, in which learning is the highest priority.  In this environment, discovery through research, creative endeavors and experience energizes the educational process.” and that “We believe in intellectual growth through scholarship, creative activities and research.”  I know from the faculty and staff I have met in my first months at HSU that research is an integral part of their work and that many want to do more of it.  I know that HSU is unique in its approach to research, particularly at the undergraduate level, by offering hands-on experiences working with faculty in the field and the laboratory. 

Given, what I now know, what do I offer as a service to HSU that adds value to the HSU research agenda? I promise to work closely with the faculty and staff to help HSU further gain recognition as a destination for research opportunities.  I promise to facilitate efforts that support our students through involvement in research that enhances the likelihood that our students will graduate and strive for a higher degree, will achieve at the highest levels, and will remember HSU as their starting point.  I promise to work diligently and collaboratively so that research efforts at HSU double and possibly triple in the next five years.  Now, what are some goals for bringing these promises to fruition?

I honestly believe that leveraging resources, involving students, reaching out to external partners, and thinking entrepreneurially and with an interdisciplinary and collaborative lens will help launch HSU to a higher level of success in research, scholarship and creative activity efforts. 


University of California at Berkeley. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Ph.D. in Environmental Science, 1987.
San Jose State University, San Jose, California. Department of Biological Science. B.A. in Marine Biology, 1980.

Research Focus

Dr. Williamson’s research has focused on the chemical and biological impacts of wastes on water quality and biota. She conducted several Sanitary Surveys for Yosemite and Lassen National Parks, involving undergraduate and graduate students in these detailed assessments of watershed water quality and best practices. She has written several technical reports for the State of California on the assessment of acid mine drainage, toxicity of cement kiln dust, and the establishment of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for metals, mercury, sediment and other potential contaminants of concern in watersheds. She has developed water quality monitoring plans for contaminants including nutrients, sediments, metals, and mercury in streams, creeks, rivers and reservoirs and she has conducted human health and ecological risk assessments and feasibility studies at hazardous waste disposal sites and at several military base closure locations. Dr. Williamson has also developed operator certification training programs for water and wastewater treatment plant personnel. Her K-12 education efforts includes teacher training workshops for middle and high school teachers in "Creek Water Quality Monitoring" and the development of "Sewer Science," a lab-based curricula that received state and national awards for science education and has been taught to over 14,000 students nationwide.


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