This week we had a visit from Dr. Dan Elliott, who went to Lehigh for his Ph.D in environmental engineering and currently does environmental consulting at Geosyntec. He gave us a presentation titled “Opportunities for Environmental Professionals in a Rapidly Changing World & Introduction to Geosyntec,” and explained the different avenues an environmental engineer can go down. The options included the industry sector, the university sector, and consulting. In industry, he used to do coordinate permitting, cleanup, and sustainability programs. Dr. Elliott explained how environmental professionals tend to be generalists in this field because even if one specializes in something during college, she/he will have to do a wide range of environmental tasks in the real world. At Merck, he managed hazardous waste treatment systems and in the corporate world at American Standard, he managed environmental work for all of the offices around the world. He now does consulting work at Geosyntec, which includes a lot of remediation of chemical spills in the soil and groundwater.
Dr. Elliott advised us aspiring environmental engineers to take as much chemistry as we can; he did his undergrad in chemistry and said that of the seven people in his class, six went to med school. Because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood, he became a “doctor of the earth” instead. When he said this, unlike it written here, it wasn’t corny and was actually really inspiring. He said that he loves his job because everyday there is a new problem to solve, so you are constantly learning. The work that he and the other environmental consultants do contributes to the safety and wellbeing of the people and the environment, which is rewarding and motivating. To hear Dr. Elliott genuinely explain that he thinks his job is interesting and for a good purpose was enlightening. I’ve talked to many professional environmental engineers who are not as excited or positive about what they do or the reasons that they do it. It’s super motivating to see a well-established, very smart environmental consultant who sincerely enjoys his job and the value it creates for the world.