Meet the Research and Development Office staff here, or see more information about the office.
Curt Brown, Ph.D.
Director, Research and Development
Curt Brown obtained his Ph.D. in Social Psychology, with an emphasis in decision analysis, from the University of Colorado in 1981. He has held several positions with Reclamation, including work in dam safety risk analysis, design of early warning systems, public involvement and social analysis, environmental impact studies, and policy development in many areas.
From 1997 to 2006, he served as the Environmental Impact Study Study Manager for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program in the Great Plains Region.
From 1995 to 1997 he served as the Program Manager for the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission which produced a report to the President and Congress, "Water in the West: Challenge for the 21st Century", as well as 22 technical studies on western water issues.
Deputy Director/Technology Transfer Manager
Chuck Hennig graduated from Colorado State University, in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Between 1979 and 1991, he served as a design engineer on many major dam construction and dam rehabilitation projects. From 1991 to 2000, Mr. Hennig became a Dam Safety Program Manager and later the Deputy Chief of Reclamation's Dam Safety Office. In 2000, Mr. Hennig became the Research Coordinator for Reclamation's Science and Technology Program.
Levi Brekke, Ph.D.
Water and Climate Research Coordinator
Prior to joining the Research and Development Office in March 2011, Levi spent 6 years at the Technical Service Center and 2 years in Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region, focusing on technical coordination and implementation of reservoir systems analyses and hydroclimate studies. Levi's education includes a B.S.E. degree in Civil Engineering (University of Iowa), M.S. degree in Environmental Science and Engineering (Stanford University), and Ph.D. in Water Resources. Levi Brekke serves as the Research and Development Office's climate and water liaison to various science organizations, including the U.S. Department of the Interior's Climate Science Centers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA). Prior to joining Reclamation, Levi spent time in the private sector, working in the areas of wastewater and water treatment engineering.
Rod Wittler, Ph.D.
Mid-Pacific Regional Science Liaison
Rod Wittler is the Mid-Pacific Regional Science Liaison to Reclamation's Research Office. Rod served as the Senior Scientist of the Trinity River Restoration Program from 2004-08. For 15 years prior, Rod was a Research Hydraulic Engineer in the Water Resources Research Laboratory of Reclamation's Technical Service Center. He has 29 years of general and research engineering experience in hydraulic models, river mechanics, flow measurement, sediment analysis, temperature modeling, and river restoration. He earned Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Colorado State University and is a registered professional civil engineer in Colorado.
Hydropower and Renewables Coordinator
Recently, Erin Foraker joined the Research and Development Office as the Renewable Energy Research Coordinator. In this position, she is directing the R&D Office renewable energy research program, which focuses on improving maintenance practices of hydropower systems, improving reliability and efficiency for hydropower generation, and researching opportunities for other renewable energy generation within Reclamation.
Erin holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Memphis and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Denver, with 19 years of power industry experience. Prior to joining Reclamation in June 1999, she worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority in the Hydro Modernization Program and Fossil Power Engineering at the Allen Fossil Plant. Prior to joining the Research and Development Office, Erin worked in both Reclamation's Hydroelectrical Research and Technical Services Group and the Power Resources Office. She has served as chairperson and representative on several power industry committees.
Science and Technology Program Coordinator
Miguel Rocha is the Science and Technology Program Manager in the Office of Research and Development. In this position, he manages the selection process, develops policy, and coordinates over 100 research projects annually.
Over 15 years working for Reclamation, Mr. Rocha has developed broad water resource experience in water recycling, water operations, water conservation, civil design, and safety of dams. During this tenure he has worked in Oklahoma, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, and now Colorado. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University and is a registered professional engineer in the state of New Mexico.
Technology Transfer Coordinator
Samantha Zhang is the Technology Transfer Coordinator for Reclamation and:
- Drafts Department Policies and Procedures and Reclamation guidelines on technology transfer in accordance with Federal Technology Transfer Legislation
- Negotiates and administers Reclamation's technology transfer agreements with non-Federal entities
- Manages Reclamation's administrative functions for technology transfer activities
- Seeks and coordinates support from Federal or non-Federal entities, including partnership intermediary networks, technology transfer forums, technology transfer contractors or consultants, universities, and other entities to help transfer Reclamation's technologies into the marketplace
Prior to working at Reclamation, Samantha was at the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice in 2004 until 2006. She was born in the Guangdong Province of China and immigrated with her family to Denver, Colorado, in 1985. She received a Chancellor Scholarship to the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver and graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Invasive Mussels Research Coordinator
Yuliana Porras-Mendoza is the Reclamation's Advanced Water Treatment Research Coordinator in the Office of Research.Her duties include:
- Guiding and administering the Desalination Water Purification Research and Development Program
- Coordinating and guiding the Advanced Water Treatment portfolio within the Science and Technology Program
- Providing overall coordination of all Reclamation advanced water treatment research.
Jake Akervik, PMP
Communication and Information Systems Coordinator
Jake joined Reclamation in June of 2011. He manages the information systems and communication and outreach programs for the Research Office and Science and Technology Program. His duties include:
- Designing and administrating several research management information systems, including the internal PropC and SharePoint web applications
- Managing and implementing the annual Research Jam science need and innovation crowdsourcing event
- Managing communication and outreach strategy and products, including the Research and Development website and The Knowledge Stream newsletter.
- Reviewing and approving annual Science and Technology research project management plans
- Improving efficiencies and collaboration through the application of project management principles and web 2.0 technologies.
Prior to joining Reclamation, Jake worked for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Office of Policy Analysis, Research and Innovation, where he served as Communication Coordinator, and then as a Flagship Initiative Project Manager for enterprise IT, social media, crowdsourcing and collaboration policy and technology implementation efforts.
Jake graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2006 with a B.S. in Scientific and Technical Communication. He also holds an Associate's Certificate in Project Management from The George Washington University School of Business, and a Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification from the Project Management Institute. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Technology Management at the University of Denver.
This information was last updated on September 24, 2013
Contact the Research and Development Office with questions or comments about this page