Academics Blog

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.

Ames Hall, the environmental engineering home!

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.


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


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 Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Environmental Engineering question thread.