Environmental engineers are the technical professionals who identify and design solutions for environmental problems. Environmental engineers provide safe drinking water, treat and dispose of wastes, maintain air quality, control water pollution, and remediate sites contaminated due to spills or improper disposal of hazardous substances. They monitor the quality of the air, water, and land. And, they develop new and improved means to protect the environment.
Although many people are concerned about the state of our environment, environmental engineers are the people who do things to protect it from damage and to correct existing problems. Environmental engineers posses the scientific and technical knowledge to identify, design, build, and operate systems that make modern society possible.
In addition to being a field for doing, the environmental engineering field and environmental engineering education are multi-disciplinary. They involve traditional engineering components such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering design. But environmental engineering education and practice also includes a range of other disciplines, such as biology, microbiology, ecology, public health, geology, meteorology, economics, political science, and computer science. To address the spectrum of issues facing the environment, environmental engineers are broadly educated, as well as technically trained.
Where environmental engineers work
Environmental engineers work in many places, including:
- engineering consulting firms that design and construct air and water pollution-control systems
- industries that must treat their air or waste water discharges
- private and municipal agencies that supply drinking water
- companies that treat and dispose of hazardous chemicals
- companies that operate treatment facilities for municipalities or industries
- government agencies that monitor and regulate waste discharges
- universities that teach and conduct research on environmental control
- private and government laboratories that develop the new generations of pollution-control systems
- international agencies that transfer knowledge and technology to the developing world and
- public-interest groups that advocate environmental protection
Course of study
Environmental engineering-related education consists of one core course (with a laboratory componant) and several senior-level elective courses and topics for senior-level capstone design project. The core course is an introduction to the field of Environmental Engineering. In it, we outline the development of this field from a focus on wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment—which was labeled "sanitary engineering"—to addressing issues of contempoary society which requires a more comprehensive understanding of the interdependence of environmental media, which is solid, liquid, or gas.
Stress is placed on applying fundamental principles of chemistry, other sciences, and mathematics in solving environmental problems on the area of wastewater treatment and engineering, drinking water treatment, air pollution control, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, etc.
The elective courses provide an opportunity for students interested in Environmental Engineering to gain former insight into selective areas. The capstone design project allows a group of students to select a problem and carry out a full scale design to solve the problem.
Apart from the coursework, some students have the opportunity to be associated with research projects with faculty.