Describe your current position and what led to your job.
I am currently an environmental scientist with Tetra Tech NUS, Inc. and pursuing a doctorate in the Department of Geography here at UD. At Tetra Tech, I perform environmental remediation of contaminated soil, groundwater, and surface water at Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Superfund sites and State of Delaware Hazardous Substance Clean-up Act (HSCA) sites. At UD, I research hydrological interactions between forest canopies and their role in the cycling of dissolved nutrients. This research provides the scientific community insights into how nutrient cycling may be affected as regional and global environmental conditions change.
What has been the most rewarding/challenging moment in your career?
The most rewarding moment of my career was also the most challenging one. It was receiving my first National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. I spent months writing my NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant proposal, going through reviews from senior faculty and colleagues, and putting together preliminary data to support my research hypotheses. It was an extraordinary and validating feeling to see that work be honored with a grant from one of the most prestigious funding sources available to researchers of the natural sciences.
What is the best career advice you have received?
The best career advice I have ever received came from an annual review at an old employer. There's no benefit in fighting the system unless it requires you to cross a moral boundary... and very few modern-day employers ask that of their employees. Work within the boundaries of the system to create mutually-beneficial partnerships. Bosses and colleagues promote and hire people who are creative enough to find meaning for themselves and others within a business's established systems (even the political one).
What would you recommend to someone interested in working in your field?
To work in the environmental arena as a scientist you must do one of two things: (1) get a Ph.D. and work in academia, or (2) start working at field-related internships as soon as possible. I began working in the environmental field my freshman year as a lab technician for the Environmental Engineering Labs in P.S. DuPont. I worked on controlling odor in wastewater sludges. From there I went to a variety of other positions just to stay current in the field - from Duffield Associates to Batta Environmental Labs to KCI Technologies. I worked anywhere I could find an internship in my field and it paid off with a full-time job beginning two weeks after graduating with my B.S. in Environmental Science.
What skills are necessary or what prepared you the most for your career?
There are two necessary skills: (1) creative problem solving and (2) social networking. These skills are often not combined in people, but if you are weak in one push yourself into situations where you will need to exercise that weakness. I started as a good problem-solver, but continually battle with introverted tendencies to establish strong social networks.
What professional associations have aided in your professional development?
Three professional organizations have helped me in different capacities. The University of Delaware has helped me significantly in competency. My advisor, Delphis Levia, has consistently provided me with new and interesting challenges, complete with hard-earned rewards. His advisement has truly cultivated a self-sustained puritanical work ethic and intense desire for quality professional development. The American Geophysical Union and the American Association of Geographers have helped me to develop my social network within the field by providing opportunities for me to present and discuss my research.
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