What does it mean to you to be an engineer?

The highest priority of engineers is to find workable, realistic solutions with realistic approaches, and they’ll tackle a problem from every angle to do it.

How is your field being redefined for today and tomorrow’s needs? What contributions do you hope to make to this redefined landscape?

As an environmental engineer, I’m studying wastewater treatment training to design pollution-prevention systems and creating solutions to remediate environmental problems. In this field, we’re focused on protecting public health via maintaining good environmental quality. It’s been around for a long time, as sanitary engineering, but it really took off as a profession in the early 1900s, when the public became aware of the dangers of waterborne pathogens contaminating our water sources and threatening human health.

I’m working on a wastewater-based epidemiology project now that seeks to monitor the trends in COVID-19 disease prevalence through evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 concentration in wastewater at the community scale. That’s possible because infected individuals excrete the virus particles into our city’s sewer system. My part is to determine what wastewater parameters are associated with New York City populations and can be used to normalize measured virus concentration.

How did NYU Tandon help you redefine yourself?

Tandon allowed me to take both environmental engineering-related and environmental psychology-related courses as an undergraduate before moving into environmental engineering, so that gave me a broad technical and social science background. I was deeply influenced by Professor Andrea Silverman, and working in her lab is what convinced me to focus on wastewater treatment and water quality-related issues.

Another formative experience was belonging to the NYU Tandon Chinese Students & Scholars Association. I joined as a freshman and was made president this year; I’m very proud of the work we do to help Chinese students studying away from their home adjust to a new environment, something we all had to do at some point.