Talk on Environmental Engineering Career Options

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.


About ludevon16

I am a Lehigh University IDEAS Environmental Engineering student focusing on a mix of biology, chemistry, environmental science, and sustainability. This summer I am participating in the Low-Energy Sustainable Farming Mountaintop Project at Lehigh, after coming back from a semester abroad in Freiburg, Germany. The previous summer I participated in an REU at Cal Poly researching phytoremediation. I am passionate about environmental remediation and want to pursue a career in the field after (fingers crossed) going to grad school. I am a flautist in the LU Philharmonic Orchestra, a student tutor for orgo, a member of LU's Finest step dancing team, and an inmate tutor for the Lehigh Prison Project. I like to rock climb, run, read, and play ukulele! View all posts by ludevon16

One response to “Talk on Environmental Engineering Career Options

  • Dan Elliott

    Ludevon16 – I certainly appreciate the kind words in your blog. There really is a lot to like about environmental engineering and having the opportunity to make a difference with one’s career. It really is imperative to take stock of what you enjoy about the field and then to do your due diligence to identify firms that have strong practice areas aligning with those interests. In doing so, one helps to ensure that there is a better fit and ultimately more all-around satisfaction. Thanks very much to Dr. Pamukcu for arranging my visit and opportunity to speak to you and I look forward to the next visit to South Mountain and visit to LU. Best regards in all of your future endeavors.


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