About Environmental Engineering
According to the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP),
"Environmental engineers are the technical professionals who identify and design solutions for environmental problems. Environmental engineers provide safe drinking water, treat and properly 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 possess the scientific and technical know-how to identify, design, build, and operate systems that make modern society possible.
In addition to being a "hands on" discipline, the environmental engineering field is multi-disciplinary. It involves traditional engineering components such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering design. In addition, environmental engineering also includes biology, microbiology, ecology, public health, geology, meteorology, economics, governmental law & regulation, and computer science. To address the spectrum of the issues facing the environment, environmental engineers are broadly educated, as well as technically trained.
Every activity of the human race has an impact on the environment, either directly or indirectly. The goal of the environmental engineer is to minimize that impact. Environmental engineers deal with such questions as:
- How can we control the sulfur dioxide emissions that pour out of power plants which burn fossil fuels?
- What must we do to ensure a clean, safe drinking water supply?
- To what degree must wastewater be treated before it is returned to the environment?
- How can we best protect the land, the final receptor of all pollution?
Environmental engineers seek the answers to these questions in the field, in the research lab, and through the use of computer models. Ultimately, the challenge facing environmental engineer is to see that adequate technology satisfies the needs of the population for energy and materials without creating future problems for the environment.
The undergraduate program offers courses in all major areas of environmental engineering. All of our environmental engineering courses teach students the fundamentals of engineering design, relevant laws and regulations, and presents actual case studies. We also teach students how to use state-of-the-art computer models to expedite the design process. Students are also taught how to balance engineering designs with economic constraints.
NMT's Environmental Engineering faculty work with New Mexico industries and local and state environmental agencies on environmental problems, and perform sponsored research with Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Opportunities exist for students to conduct research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Seniors work with a professor on a thesis project, normally chosen by the student in an area of interest. For large projects, such as those required for the annual Waste-Management and Education Research Consortium (WERC) or Water Environment Federation (WEF) design contests, students can work in groups. Senior theses often require lab work, detailed engineering designs, and computer modeling.
Our students have won a total of 11 first, second, or third place awards in the annual WERC Environmental Design Contest, and our students have also been honored with best paper and best poster awards from national environmental organizations.
New Mexico Tech offers a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and a five-year combined B.S./M.S. degree. All M.S. students are required to complete 30 credit hours and a thesis or independent study. Graduate students have many opportunities within allied departments for research and teaching assistantships. Students are often eligible for funding through cooperative research with Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.
Where do environmental engineers work?
Environmental engineers work in many places. Some of the common ones are:
- engineering consulting firms that design and construct air and water pollution-control systems
- industries that need to treat their wastewater or air discharges
- private and municipal agencies that supply drinking water
- companies that treat and dispose of hazardous chemicals
- companies that operate treatment facilities for municipalities and industries
- government agencies that monitor and regulate waste discharges
- universities and colleges 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 developing countries
- public-interest groups that advocate environmental protection