I chose to major in engineering because I wanted to apply math in a cool way. I think engineering really gives you that edge. Once I discovered engineering, I wanted to do something that was always changing and always on the cusp of new science. I think Environmental Engineering is a great fit, since our work is very important for problems that impact people’s livelihoods, such as providing clean drinking water.
I grew up in New Hampshire and attended Clarkson University in upstate New York. When I started in 2014, I was just an Environmental Engineering major, but I ended up graduating with a dual degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Even though I did both degrees, I found that I liked Environmental Engineering more—I’d rather be out working with soil samples or in a water treatment plant than designing a bridge or road. I also felt like I could make more of a difference as an Environmental Engineer. I became a Freshman Representative with Clarkson University SWE, which gave me the chance to grow in a leadership role.
From my extracurricular involvement, I was able to get a couple of internships. I got an internship with National Grid as an Electric Project Estimator at the end of sophomore year and an internship my junior year with Brown & Caldwell as an Environmental Engineer. Electric project estimating is so different from what I do now, but getting that internship taught me how to be professional, how to act in the workplace and how to work in the field. My second internship dealt with water treatment plant design, which confirmed my interest in Environmental Engineering.
I used my university and SWE network to obtain my current job at AECOM. I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have those connections. After a year at AECOM, I decided to switch from the Water group to the Remediation group. When I’m in the field, I’m taking groundwater or soil samples, or I oversee the people who are taking those samples. When I’m in the office, I’m analyzing the samples we collected, and if there’s an issue, we work to find a solution.
My favorite project was working on Lake Agawam in Long Island, NY, which was a lake full of blue green algae due to climate change and pesticide use. AECOM has a mobile water treatment system that we can place next to a lake for algae treatment. Then, we take the algae to a treatment facility to dispose of it properly, leaving the lake perfectly clean. My favorite part is going out to an absolute disaster of an environmental site and cleaning it up completely. Seeing the end result and knowing that we solved that problem is my favorite part of my job.
My advice for those interested in engineering is that if you see an opportunity, take it. I took the chance to apply for Freshman Representative for SWE and, professionally, to transfer to the Albany office for AECOM, and I never looked back. Environmental Engineering is so broad and is always changing, so take the time to learn about it all. From water treatment, to remediation, to air quality, Environmental Engineering covers a lot of problems that we face today. The more you can learn, the better off you’re going to be and the more you’re going to love what you see in Environmental Engineering.
“Environmental Engineering is so broad and is always changing, so take the time to learn about it all. From water treatment, to remediation, to air quality, Environmental Engineering covers a lot of problems that we face today. The more you can learn, the better off you’re going to be and the more you’re going to love what you see in Environmental Engineering.”
– Renata Spinosa, Environmental Engineer
Read more ‘Day in the Life’ articles:
- A Day in the Life of Civil Engineer Eileen Velez Vega
- A Day in the Life of Chemical Engineer Rosa Rueda, Ph.D.
- A Day in the Life of Engineering Director Kalyani Mallela
- A Day in the Life of Software Engineer Emily Redmond
- A Day in the Life of Mining Engineer Meghan McDonald
- A Day in the Life of Manufacturing Engineer Elizabeth Walker