Faculty Spotlight

"The only one who never makes mistakes is the one who never does anything" -- Theodore Roosevelt

Tiffany Messer

Dr. Tiffany Messer Profile Photo

What is your position at UNL?:

Assistant Professor and Water Quality Scientist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering and School of Natural Resources

What drew you to UNL?:

Nebraska provides a unique, dynamic group of leading researchers in water resources. Additionally, Nebraska offers complex water quality issues, state-of-art facilities, and a climatic and geologic landscape that allows for a diverse array of research opportunities. Lastly, the faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Biological Engineering, School of Natural Resources, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and College of Engineering continue to be an inviting, diverse group of individuals that make for a unique and engaging research institution.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?:

The most rewarding part of my job is watching students succeed at a project that requires innovative thinking in combination with diverse dimensions of topics taught in the classroom. I love watching that moment when a student has a “light bulb” go off and they can 1. Identify the problem, 2. Evaluate a range of possible solutions, and 3. Develop a plan to test and evaluate those possible solutions.

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of your job?:

I recently moved from the east coast, where water is plentiful and the primary pollutant concerns are nutrients from fertilizer applications. However, Nebraska provides a whole new host of emerging water quality contaminants in conjunction with water quantity concerns. Therefore, the most challenging part of my job is identifying research questions in water quality that have the greatest potential to impact real people every day in Nebraska and the Midwest, while keeping in mind the constraint of water quantity.

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is discovering a solution to difficult and important issues involving agriculture and water quality. Specifically, I enjoy finding solutions that are win-wins for both agricultural production and water quality improvement. Additionally, I enjoy working with students across a wide range of education levels (Pre-K through graduate school). I find this wide range of teaching activities enhance my ability to write proposals, talk to practitioners, and engage landowners in way that is more personal and coherent.

Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?:

I advise being open to change. It is very hard to plan out your entire life when you have just started. Biological Systems Engineering provides a wide array of opportunities post-graduation and your first job will likely not be your last. Therefore, embrace the diversity in culture and engineering disciplines that Biological Systems Engineering and UNL provide, as this is time that allows you discover your passions, learn from people that are different from you, and engage in opportunities that you may have never imagined.