Margaret S. Petersen, 47BSCE, 53MS, entered the field of engineering long before it became widely accepted for women to do so, and she managed not only to succeed in her chosen field, but to distinguish herself as one of the nation's leading hydraulic engineers. She has attained international recognition and has received numerous awards given by the U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers.
She began her employment with the Corps prior to enrolling as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa. From her first assignment as a draftsperson with the Rock Island District, she went on after receiving her engineering degree to work on many rivers in the United States and to increasingly responsible posts in research, design of hydraulic structures, channel hydraulics, and water resource planning.
She has worked on some of the nation's largest water projects, including the Missouri River multiple-purpose storage reservoirs and navigation improvements, the Arkansas River navigation project, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta project, and post-authorization planning for the $1 billion Marysville Lake multiple-purpose reservoir on the Yuba River in California.
Petersen's colleagues have noted that her work with the Corps was always characterized by her reasoned adherence to environmentally sound policy. An environmentalist long before the word came into vogue, Margaret Petersen was influential in guiding planning and design of numerous water projects in ways that minimized environmental damage.
Petersen's second career as an engineering professor at the University of Arizona's College of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, where she has taught full-time since 1981, has been as outstanding as her first. Not only has she been lauded as a rare species in contemporary American engineering colleges—an engineering professor who is also an engineer—but she has also developed four new graduate level courses in hydraulic engineering based on her own experiences.
Her field experiences have been invaluable in preparing the next generation of hydraulic engineers in the classrooms of today. The publication of her 1986 book, River Engineering, promises to expand her influence and is certain to become a standard engineering reference book. Her 1984 book, Water Resource Planning and Development, was one of the first books on the subject. Because it presents procedures for planning and gives special attention to problems of the lesser developed countries, it has been widely accepted internationally.
Petersen has been active in the American Society of Civil Engineers for more than 35 years and with the International Standards Organization and the Permanent International Association of Navigation Congresses. She has been involved with water resource planning for the Kingdom of Morocco, has lectured in Morocco, and will participate in a special course on water resource planning for developing areas in South Africa later this year.