What is AAEES? What is bibimbap??

AAEES is the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists at USC, but we welcome all majors who are interested in sustainable careers! I’m writing as Serena Zhu, a member of our exec board. I am a senior studying environmental engineering and have recently been really into making Korean food*! I thought I’d take you on a journey of making bimbap as I tell you a little more about our organization.

bibimbap = “bibim” + “bap”

bibim: mixing various ingredients

bap: rice

*disclaimer I am 100% ethnically Chinese and also a college student so I apologize in advance for the lack of authenticity in this dish LOL. Please don’t roast me as I try my best to create other culture’s cuisines with what I have on hand!!


I actually don’t really like rice that much, as I consider myself more of a noodles gal. However, the rice in this dish is mixed with sesame oil, giving it a more fragrant flavor than plain ol’ white rice! I also mixed in some brown rice because #health. Together, rice is the foundation to this dish just as academics are the foundation to being a student.

As a student, it’s not hard to guess that our main focus during the school year are our classes. Viterbi classes almost always mix in real world applications for an engineering topic. For one of my classes on energy and the environment, our professor started the class by talking about the various oil booms and busts the U.S. has experienced and the presidential nominees’ climate plans. As the future generation of engineers, it’s critical that we understand how engineering concepts are contextualized and applied in the real world. Context is key, and I would argue sesame oil is, too.

At AAEES, we are constantly comparing our class schedules. Recently, we made a slack workspace so we can help each other with difficult concepts as well as just making sure we all have the right zoom link ;). We give each other advice on what GEs to take, what electives were the most enjoyable, or even which professor we preferred (disclaimer: we appreciate all professors equally 🙂 ).

Now comes the fun part– TOPPINGS. 

The toppings of the bibimbap are really what makes each bowl special. Although there are some traditional toppings, the best part is just choosing to add things that you know you like! AAEES keeps this in mind when we plan our events for the year. Some things we know are good for us, like resume and cover letter workshops. At the same time, we still make space for nontraditional events like bringing in a beekeeper or touring Catalina Island!

While our environmental engineers’ curriculum are tailored towards water treatment, we know that sustainable careers exist in virtually every field these days and want to give our members the chance to explore. In my bibimbap, I added a mixture of artificial crab + mayo– something I would not traditionally find on this dish. With AAEES, I got to tour Reformation’s garment factory– something I would have expected to do as an environmental engineer! Whether you like bean sprouts or enoki mushrooms with chili oil, want to pursue consulting or non-profit work, being able to explore these choices is what AAEES (and bibimbap) are all about!

variety of cooked foods

Bibimbap makes me full, satisfied, and gives me a variety of food and flavors in one bowl! During my time here at USC, AAEES has been an organization that encourages me in my studies and introduces me to various sustainable careers. If this sounds interesting to you, I highly encourage you to join us! Our events are usually on Tuesdays at 7PM PST and if you leave your information here, we’ll make sure to give you more information on how to join. In the meantime, I hope you try making a version of bibimbap yourself!

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