Steve Wells serves as the president of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech or NMT), a public academic and research university granting undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics, and reports to the NMT Board of Regents. As president and chief executive officer, Dr. Wells oversees a university with 2150 students and 135 faculty and staff, providing leadership in the execution of the university’s strategic plan and maintaining the budget as allocated by the state legislature along with grants received from various entities. Dr. Wells leads the university in fundraising efforts, as well as cultivating relationships with the NMT alumni to gain support in the advancement and development of NMT activities. Dr. Wells maintains a continuous dialogue with the Board of Regents, providing an annual report on all aspects of the university, as well as providing a voice and presence in the community and state for recruiting potential students.
He served as president of the Desert Research Institute (DRI) of the Nevada System of Higher Education from 1999 to 2016, overseeing one of the world’s largest multidisciplinary environmental research organizations with approximately 500 scientists, technologists, students, and other support staff. He built DRI from a $23.8 million per year operation in 1998 to greater than $50 million currently. He oversaw two research facilities (one in Las Vegas and one in Reno), leading three core divisions and four interdisciplinary science centers that serve the State of Nevada and every continent. Dr. Wells served as a graduate faculty member in the Hydrologic Sciences Program and Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. He served on the boards of Research Parks, Ltd., Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, WaterStart, Nevada STEM Coalition, and Sierra Nevada College.
Prior to joining DRI in July 1995 as executive director of the Quaternary Sciences Center, Dr. Wells was professor of geomorphology and chair of the graduate program in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. Dr. Wells began his academic career at the University of New Mexico in 1976 and ultimately served as chair of the Department of Geology from 1989 to 1991. At both institutions, he built internationally recognized research and graduate programs, matriculating 34 Ph.D. and M.S. students. Dr. Wells has held visiting appointments with the U.S. Air Force Office of Research, U.S. Geological Survey, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the University of Liverpool, as well as established consulting relationships with numerous federal agencies and private companies including the U.S. Department of Justice and Sandia National Laboratories.
Other professional activities during his career include the following: president, Geological Society of America; GSA Fellow; member of the Board of Earth Sciences and Resources, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences; presidential lecturer, University of New Mexico; chair and vice chair, GSA Quaternary and Geomorphology Division; panel member, Tectonics Program, Division of Earth Sciences, National Science Foundation; member, U.S. National Committee, International Union for Quaternary Research; associate editor and editorial board member, three international journals; co-chair, U.S. Army Basic Research Review Panel (Atmospheric and Terrestrial Sciences Panel).
Dr. Wells has published approximately 60 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters and edited six volumes. These works focus upon the geomorphology and Quaternary geology of arid and semiarid regions, geomorphic and hydrologic responses to Quaternary climate change, and tectonic and volcanic activity. Dr. Wells’ research career has blended applied studies, such as development of geomorphic criteria for selecting stable uranium tailings disposal areas, and basic research, such as the Late Quaternary paleohydrology of the eastern Mojave River drainage of California. Dr. Wells is the recipient of three national awards for research excellence: the GSA Kirk Bryan Award for best scientific paper in geomorphology and Quaternary geology, the Gladys Cole Award for best scientific proposal in arid land geomorphology, and the GSA Farouk El-Baz Award for desert research.
Dr. Wells has a B.S. (geology) from Indiana University as well as an M.S. and Ph.D. in geology from the University of Cincinnati.