Kathleen M. Smits

Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kathleen SmitsKathleen Smits’ research interests are centered on advancing the knowledge of shallow subsurface multiphase process affected by heat and mass flux dynamics at the land/atmospheric interfaces at a wide range of physical scales. The basic aim of her research is to combine theoretical, numerical and experimental approaches to address hydrological processes occurring near the earth’s surface. Her main focus is performing detailed and highly controlled experiments at various scales that she then uses to develop and test theory and numerical multiphase models of flow and transport alike. The motivation of her research is to provide answers to questions of importance to many current geoenvironmental problems to include the transport modeling of pollutants like Volatile Organic Compounds migrating into the vadose zone of soils, water resource management in dry land, natural or forced ventilation, and the simulation of water content fluctuation in the vadose zone interacting with the atmosphere. On-going work involves understanding the effect on heterogeneity on the evaporation and condensation processes in soil as affected by energy and mass exchange between land and atmosphere.


  • PhD, Environmental Science and Engineering, Colorado School of Mines
  • MS, Civil Engineering – Water Resources, The University of Texas at Austin
  • BS, Environmental Engineering, United States Air Force Academy


Kathleen has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses in fluid mechanics, surface and groundwater hydrology, contaminant transport, hazardous waste site remediation, introductory environmental engineering, introductory civil engineering and field engineering.

Selected Publications

  • Smits, K.M. T. Sakaki, and T.H. Illangasekare (2011). Thermal properties of sands as affected by soil moisture and temperature. Vadose Zone J., in review.
  • Smits, K.M., V.V.Ngo, A. Cihan, T. Sakaki, and T.H. Illangasekare (2011). An experimental and modeling study of evaporation from bare soils subjected to natural boundary conditions at the land-atmosheric interface. Water Resour. Res., in review.
  • Smits, K.M., A. Cihan, T. Sakaki, S.E. Howington, J.F. Peters, and T. H. Illangasekare (2011). Experimental and modeling investigation of soil moisture and thermal behavior in the vicinity of buried objects. IEEE Trans. Geophys., in review.
  • Smits, K. M., A. Cihan, T. Sakaki, and T. H. Illangasekare (2011). Evaporation from soils under thermal boundary conditions: Experimental and modeling investigation to compare equilibrium- and nonequilibrium-based approaches, Water Resour. Res., 47, W05540, doi:10.1029/2010WR009533.
  • Smits, K. M., T. Sakaki, A. Limsuwat, and T. H. Illangasekare (2010). Thermal conductivity of sands under varying moisture and porosity in drainage-wetting cycles. Vadose Zone J., 9:doi:10.2136/vzj2009.0095
  • Sakaki, T., A. Limsuwat, K. M. Smits, and T. H. Illangasekare (2008). Empirical two-point alpha mixing model for calibrating the ECH2O EC-5 soil moisture sensor in sands. Water Res. Res. 44: W00D08, doi:10.1029/2008WR006870.
  • Wu, M.Y., K.M. Smits, M.N. Goltz, and J.A. Christ (2008). A screening model for injection-extraction treatment well recirculation system design. Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation, 28:63-71.
  • Schnitger, A.L., K.M. Smits, and J.A. Christ (2007). A review of health concerns associated with engineered carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
  • Pocock, J.B., K.M. Smits (2005). Developing alliance through regional defense environmental cooperation: Building on successes in the Baltic Sea Region. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).