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Environmental Engineering

Name: Andrea Berlinghof

Year: Class of 2013

Hometown: Upper Dublin, PA

Major: Environmental Engineering

Dear Friends…Best, DoGEE

Hello prospective environmental engineers! My name is Andrea Berlinghof, I am a junior here at Hopkins.  The Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, affectionately called DoGEE (pronounced like the animal) has been around since 1968.  It is a relatively small major, with each grade having less than 25 total students.  I have never experienced the “cut-throat” stereotypical Hopkins culture in my department, in fact, the opposite is true.  The 24ish other people that you have in most of your classes become your friends and lifelines, as you collaborate and working together to solve particularly grueling problem sets.  The professors in DoGEE are all extremely knowledgeable in their prospective fields and very interesting people on top of that.  Having a professor who has a PhD yet insists on being called by his first name and begins his emails with “Dear Friends,” and ends them with “Best, Hedy” is one of the many endearing and surprising qualities you can expect from some of my favorite environmental engineering professors.  DoGEE has more requirements than most majors at Hopkins, but it has the flexibility to focus on different areas within the major.  See attached pdf link for course requirements. (http://engineering.jhu.edu/~dogee/undergraduate-programs/Undergrad%20Advising%20Manual%20FINAL%202011-2012%2011-10-11.pdf).  My favorite class has been Emerging Environmental Issues, in which we learned about the chemistry of acid rain, ozone depletion, climate change, and geoengineering.

My research group last summer having a breakfast at our professors house after a group run

I originally stumbled into the environmental engineering major because I could write a good college essay about it (not kidding).  Once I actually began researching the major, I decided it was for me.  Environmental engineering is a relatively new field that is guaranteed to grow in the future because of an increased demand to go green (aka job openings).  I have always loved the outdoors and want to have a job where I can help people and not be stuck behind a desk, which I believe I can find in the environmental engineering field.

Two girls in my major at a Hazardous Waste field trip

Although being a Hopkins engineer is very time consuming and work-intensive, I am also able to participate in lots of other activities on campus.  Last summer, I did research with Professor Guikema working on point source target tracking of cocaine within a sewer system (I was writing codes in MATLAB, not handling cocaine or traipsing around in the sewers).  I am a captain of the women’s varsity tennis team (currently 13th in the nation, Go Hop!), an outdoor pursuits leader for hiking and sea kayaking and a member of Alpha Phi.  With outdoor pursuits, I am a pre-orientation backpacking leader, which means the last week of summer, I hike the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail with a group of freshmen before school starts.  I highly recommend going on Pre-O! Anyway, back to DoGEE… My favorite part about my DoGEE is the “family feel” you get from the extremely small department.  We have a lot of events such as our annual crab feast, happy hours or potlucks that bring everyone together.  So far, I have loved being a DoGEE and I am extremely glad that high school Andrea wrote her college essay about environmental engineering.

Two of my classmates conducting a lab for fluid mechanics

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Click here to access more information about the Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective and the Environmental Engineering question thread.

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Environmental Engineering

Name: Hannah Bands

Year: 2013

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Major: Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering examines the relationship between people and the earth.  Environmental engineers answer questions like, “What will happen to nano-particles we produce?,” “How can we make sure our drinking water is safe?,” and “If we emit sulphur into the air here, how will it affect communities downwind?” The field of environmental engineering combines theory and practice, lab work and fieldwork, and social and physical science.  This field is changing remarkably quickly as our knowledge of environmental problems and demand for solutions grow.

As a high school student, I didn’t realize how many opportunities environmental engineers have.  Luckily, I fell in love with the department as soon as I visited.  Everyone was so attentive, and the atmosphere was so friendly.  I already knew that I wanted to somehow apply math and science to help improve the world, but as soon as I met everyone in the department, I knew this was where I wanted to learn how to become an engineer.  As a bonus, Hopkins happens to have one of the very best environmental engineering departments.

Like any Hopkins engineering department, DoGEE (Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering) has rigorous requirements.  A lot of the classes are general engineering classes, such as physics and statics (the physics of still objects).  Some of them are tailored to environmental applications; for example, fluid mechanics is the physics of fluids, which is particularly useful to those of us who need to know how air and water work.  Other classes, such as ecology and economics, seem unrelated to engineering, but are incredibly useful for environmental engineers.  In short, you will learn how to become an engineer with a whole range of useful skills.  And that’s only the required classes!  By picking up a minor, or by just taking some classes that sound interesting, you can explore other fields that interest you.

Many students in DoGEE do research during their time here.  The professors here do so many different things, it’s really easy to find something you’re interested in.  I do research on environmental history, which is called paleoecology.  I look at sediment from before European settlement of the area, up through present-day.  The sediment has pollen and seeds that tell us what the environment might have looked like over the centuries.  I have a friend in the department who looks at what happens to carbon nanotubes in the environment, and another who looks at where rivers begin.   A lot of DoGEE students are also involved in Engineers without Borders, which is a student group that plans and implements projects to help communities in Africa and South America.  This program is a great way to learn how to see a project through start-to-finish, travel the world, and help other people.  You can get even involved in environmental projects on campus and in the community by joining Students for Environmental Action (SEA).  This student group promotes a greener campus and community.

Pollen

People with a degree in environmental engineering go into all different fields.  Some stay in academia/research and continue learning about human impacts on the environment.  Many others go into consulting.  With an environmental engineering degree, you know about environmental issues as well as the more technical side of engineering solutions; this makes you uniquely suited to advise others about the best way to mitigate human impacts on ecosystems.  Environmental engineering has so many sides (policy, economic, social, biological, etc.).  You just have to find the aspects that interest you, and pursue them!

Carbon nanotube

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Click here to access more information about the Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective and the Environmental Engineering question thread.

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Environmental Engineering

Name: Brian Shell

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Aberdeen, NJ

Major: Environmental Engineering

WHAT’S YOUR MAJOR?

For this entry, I thought I’d talk about my major: Environmental Engineering. I feel very fortunate to be in the program here at Hopkins, which is absolutely one of the best in the country. Many people know of our strengths in other departments, but environmental engineering is not usually one of the programs that immediately come to mind.

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So I thought first I’d try to dispel a couple myths about our major. A common reply after I tell someone my major is “Oh, that’s a good thing with the green revolution and all” or “So you want to save the planet?” What we do as environmental engineers isn’t really focused on the consumer green revolution, considering the Romans and ancient Harappans practiced environmental engineering. And saving the planet is quite a lofty goal – instead we focus on using engineering skills to develop technologies that will help solve environmental problems, one step at a time.

Now that you know a little about environmental engineering in general, let’s talk about some of the specific aspects of our department here at JHU:

  • Environmentally-focused department Our department here is actually the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, affectionately referred to as DoGEE (pronounced just like our canine friends). At most other schools, environmental engineering is grouped with civil engineering. While I don’t have anything against civil engineers, grouping our department with the study of geography makes so much more sense than the department that focuses on roads, bridges, structures, etc. Our department still collaborates with faculty in the civil engineering department who are6a00d83451db8d69e2010535f2d676970b-800wi working in areas similar to ours. The benefit is that every member of our department has a clear environmental focus.
  • Faculty to student ratioOur department has 19 faculty members, and only 42 undergraduates. Having a nearly 2:1 undergrad to faculty ratio means a lot of attention and plentiful research opportunities. (Here’s a picture of me in the lab last week!)
  • Great peopleEveryone in our department is helpful and kind. When my Mom and I visited in the summer before my senior year, I had contacted Dr. Bouwer, now our department chair and my advisor, about seeing the department during our visit. Since he was out of town, we were warmly welcomed by several of Dr. Bouwer’s PhD students who gave us a guided tour of all of the facilities in the department. I am actually now working with one of those students in our lab. At several of the schools that I visited, professors did not even reply to my emails about 6a00d83451db8d69e2010535f9e2d2970c-800wi visiting their departments. Nothing like that would happen here.
  • Surrounding areaThe Chesapeake Bay area is a great place to study environmental engineering. The unique ecosystem presents research opportunities and a real-life example of what we study in our classes. Consequently, some of our classes involve field trips!
  • Deeply rooted in historyOur department is full of history. Abel Wolman, considered the “Father of Sanitary Engineering” established the Department of Sanitary Engineering, our department’s predecessor, in 1937. He essentially figured out the modern process of drinking water chlorination, which has saved so many lives. Wolman Hall and Baltimore’s municipal building are named after him, in recognition of his many accomplishments. His son is actually a professor in our department today. Click on his picture to see a cool video about Abel Wolman.

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  • Well-knownSince our department has such diverse history, it is very well known among those in the environmental engineering field. Many of our graduates have started their own successful firms. I can only imagine that this will be a benefit to me once I am out in the field looking for a job. Also, as we know, rankings aren’t everything, but our department has been consistently ranked as one of the top in the country – I believe we are #3 for graduate students and #6 for undergrads in the latest set.

 

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As I mentioned, our department has great research opportunities. When I met with my advisor this fall, I mentioned that I wanted to get involved with research. He suggested one of his PhD students. She is studying pharmaceuticals and personal care products (or as we call them, PPCPs) in wastewater. Just last week we were in the lab, and I got to observe and help her out with some analytic techniques. I really enjoyed being involved with research once again and am looking forward to continuing the work. The fact that I am involved with research after only being here for a couple months is quite remarkable.

The class requirements for our department have been carefully planned out so that we can have a lot of freedom of choice, while still getting an ABET-accredited engineering degree. For the first two years, most engineering majors are taking essentially the same core classes. Our department also has a couple specific classes for us to take during this time. In the later years, students choose one of four “focus areas” to become their concentration. These include Environmental Management & Economics, Environmental Engineering Science, Environmental Transport, and Environmental Health Engineering.

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As far as classes in the department, I only have one under my belt thus far: Introduction to Environmental Engineering, taught by Professor Hedy Alavi. I have really enjoyed this course, and Hedy  (he prefers we call him by his first name, because “otherwise he would have to call us all as Mr. and Ms.”) actually received an award from the Whiting School of Engineering’s alumni as one of the best professors in the engineering school a year or so ago. Next semester I am taking either two or three classes in the department: Current and Emerging Environmental Issues (which is essentially an environmental chemistry class), Introduction to Computation and Math Modeling, and possibly a new class on engineering ethics called Unraveling Error: Moral Explorations of Technology.

So the inevitable question is… “What are you going to do with this degree?” A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that from 2004 to 2014 the number of environmental engineering jobs will increase by a staggering 40.5%. While I am not sure what route my future studies and career may take, I am confident that having a degree in environmental engineering will leave many doors open for me.  I know that I want my future career to involve research, and I am considering either a marine or environmental health engineering focus. But I am sure that this will change as I continue to experience all that our department has to offer.

I hope this entry has taught you a little more about environmental engineering here at Hopkins. Feel free to post questions for me on the message boards.

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Click here to access more information about the Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective and the Environmental Engineering question thread.

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