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A Day in The Life of an Environmental Engineering Major

As a communication major myself, looking into the lives of students of other majors has always fascinated me, especially when they are using their education to make a difference in the world. Anne-Marie Senatus is a third-year Environmental Engineering major specializing in wastewater treatment. Inspired by her culture, Anne-Marie’s decision to focus on Wastewater Treatment drives her passion and commitment to see a world where everyone has access to clean water.

Anne-Marie Headshot
Anne-Marie Senatus

Her Campus (HC): What does a typical day in your life as an environmental engineering student look like? 

Anne-Marie Senatus (AS): I wake up at 6 a.m. to go to the Engineering Campus to go to my Transportation Engineering class from 8:00 to 9:15 a.m. From 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., I go into the lab. Then, I head to campus to work as a Trigonometry Learning Assistant in the Math Department from 12:50 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. Right after, I’ll head to the gym and then stop at Greenwise for a late lunch. I spend the rest of the day studying and doing homework, and then I’ll make my favorite dinner (pesto pasta with a glass of kombucha).

HC: How has your upbringing inspired the career path you chose today?

AS: I grew up in Haiti, where having clean and running water was a privilege. In order to have running water in your home, one must wait until the district makes it available, which can take weeks or even months. When it is available, most people are unable to afford it. And even when they are, the water often runs out. In many regions in Haiti, residents do not even have that option. They have relied on underground springs and rivers. Although that water is often contaminated, it is used for cooking, laundering, showering, dishwashing and even drinking. When I moved to the United States, I learned that my country was not the only country that had limited access to clean water. Recognizing this issue sparked my interest in water-related research.

HC: You’re in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), so you recently participated in the Idea Grants with the College of Engineering where you talked about your research in Selenium Recovery in Wastewater. Can you tell me more about that?

AS: The purpose of the research is meant to address the many misconceptions people have about bacteria in water. Many people believe water cannot be cleaned sustainably, but I disproved that. The contaminant I focused on was Selenium. It is a harmful chemical that can be very detrimental to our health when it is present in large concentrations. If we remove it from water, it can be used for the production of glass, alloys, steel and even oil. I was given the opportunity to build a water treatment that uses bacteria instead of excess energy (like traditional water treatment systems) to remove Selenium from wastewater.

image of plastic garbage washed up on the ocean shore
Original photo by Risako Tsugaru

HC: What do you hope your research will achieve one day?

AS: I hope to one day be able to use the knowledge and skills I have gained from working in the lab to help put an end to the water crisis in third-world countries.

HC: How do you manage the heavy course load and the responsibility of doing such important work?

AS: Planning and staying ahead of things help me manage everything. It has its ups and downs since I do have to sacrifice a lot of things (sleep and social life). However, what keeps me sane and on track is remembering that what I am studying and working on is important and is making a difference.

HC: What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue Environmental Engineering but is afraid of the challenges?

AS: Do not be afraid to challenge yourself because engineering will test you and your grit, but it will be worth it in the end. You will meet the smartest and most amazing people that will help you stay on track. Engineering is hard but the journey is 100-percent worth it! 

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Ananda York is a Floridian writer of Jamaican descent. She loves Fashion, Beauty, Social Media, and Entrepreneurship and is currently coming up with a way to combine all of those into a major.