I am now in week 4 (i think?) of my sixth semester at USC and time and time again I always find myself answering the question, “So what exactly is Environmental Engineering?” Well the answer to that is kind of complex and simple at the same time, so I’ll break it down for you here.
I’ll start by rewinding a few years to when I chose ENE in the first place. It was senior year of high school, spring semester and I was having an existential crisis (I don’t actually know what an existential crisis is but 17 year old me was sure this was one) of what to major in. My plan for the last 10 years had been to pursue English or Literature with plans of going to law school and becoming a lawyer. And although those subjects came easiest to me, I realized that the only classes I truly enjoyed were Calculus and Environmental Science, so naturally I began to consider a major in Environmental Engineering. Since I had already been accepted to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, I decided to give ENE a go.
Now I am having a new crisis – where is this major going to take me and what am I going to do with my life? Well, the nice thing about engineering is that I don’t really need to figure that out now or even in the near future because engineers are pretty qualified to do almost anything. My major encompasses aspects of almost every other engineering discipline. I’ve taken classes in chemistry, physics, biology, microbiology, math, computer programming, thermodynamics, and writing just to name a few. I’ve worked in the fields of construction (read my blog about it here!), civil engineering, and environmental engineering. My next internship at Ramboll Environ will focus on field work and consulting – a realm I have never worked in before.
Long story short, environmental engineering encompasses SO many things and the possibilities are endless. You can go into nonprofits, water quality control, clean energy production, sustainable planning, site remediation, and more. You can get a masters in a completely different field and pursue a career that marries the two. You can go into research or become a college professor. You can be pre-med or pre-law and pursue a non-engineering career. So while I just gave you a really long answer, my simplest way to answer this question is Environmental Engineering is a mix of a passion for the environment with a passion for solving problems. If you want to hear more about Environmental Engineering from someone who took an interesting path to get to her career in it, listen to the AWESOME podcast that Dr. Kelly Sanders did with Alex here! But my perspective isn’t the only one to listen to, one of my favorite people ever wrote a blog about her experience with environmental engineering too!