ann-perry witmer

Research Scientist,  Illinois Applied Research Institute


Ann-Perry Witmer is a Research Scientist at the Illinois Applied Research Institute. After earning her undergraduate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois, Dr. Witmer designed drinking-water systems throughout the Midwest as a professional consulting engineer for more than a decade. During that time, she also became involved in humanitarian engineering work, ultimately helping to create service organizations that designed and installed engineered infrastructure with communities in Central America and the Caribbean. Dr. Witmer returned to the University in 2013 as a lecturer in the Grainger of College of Engineering and continued to teach while earning her doctoral degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, focusing her studies on the effectiveness of engineering design for non-industrialized societies. She continues to teach courses in international engineering design and acts as faculty advisor to Engineers Without Borders-UIUC, and her project travels have taken her to Central America, Africa, Asia and South America, where she’s developed a deep understanding of the relationship between technical and social considerations that must be co-evaluated for under-resourced communities. Many of her insights were gleaned from a first career in journalism, during which time Dr. Witmer built a robust understanding of the relevance of context to applied efforts in government, industry, and the environment.

Today, her research effort focuses on the refinement of the Contextual process methodology, in which user conditions are incorporated into the design process to produce a more sustainable outcome. Her methodology has been applied to engineering design processes for infrastructure and products, as well as to entrepreneurial pursuits and business management practices.