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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers: Environmental Engineer

8 minutes

(woman) I think the public takes for granted that they have clean water to drink and that they have enough clean water to drink.

(Describer) Someone drinks from a pipe.

But that's something that people are working very hard to ensure. We want people to have confidence that that water will be healthy. They don't need to buy bottled water.

(Describer) A bottle flies out of a recycling bin.

My name is Tamar Losleben. I'm an environmental engineer with Malcolm Pirnie, and I work in New York City.

(Describer) The skyline is shown.

Environmental engineering is really where public health and environmental needs meet. Environmental engineers work with cleaning up contamination or preventing contamination of the air, soil and water. We study where there could be an impact on the environment or people's health, and then we create solutions to try and mitigate that impact.

(male narrator) Tamar's area of specialty is water engineering, specifically water treatment.

(Describer) She goes upstairs.

(Losleben) So I'm here at a friend's house, and I'm testing lead in the water, because often in these old houses built maybe 50 or 100 years ago, there's concern about lead in the water. I'm collecting samples to make sure the water's safe.

(Describer) At the office...

At Malcolm Pirnie, I work on many different types of projects-- anything from determining water storage needs or disinfection needs, upgrading drinking water facilities or waste water facilities, doing overall master planning.

(Describer) She meets with a woman at a desk.

I also look at the sustainability of projects, and that's something that we're very focused on now. I'm working on a project in Nassau County, Long Island at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. We're working with the New York State

(Describer) Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, Commissioner of Public Works:

Department of Environmental Conservation to meet the stricter regulations to remove proper amounts of chlorine and dissolved oxygen from waste water leaving the plant and entering the water bodies. Tamar works with us to monitor the levels of the dissolved oxygen and the chlorine.

(Describer) Outside, Tamar collects a sample from a large reservoir and tests it with a digital instrument.

(narrator) Working for an engineering firm provides Tamar with an opportunity to work on a variety of projects and spend time outdoors, which she loves.

(Losleben) I like starting my day outside--running or surfing in the morning or biking to work. My working environment is a mix. I sometimes work in the office. Other days, I'll head to the field.

(Describer) She climbs a ladder.

I quite like my hours I work. It's usually a 40-hour week.

(Describer) At the edge of a lake...

We're at Meadow Lake in New York City, taking samples of lake water to test for turbidity.

(Describer) She uses a metal cup.

I want to understand if there are a lot of particles that are suspended in the water.

(Describer) Title: Turbidimeter – An instrument for measuring the loss in intensity of a light beam through a solution that contains suspended particulate matter.

(Describer) She reads from a turbidimeter.

It's about 30, which is higher than what we would want for drinking water, but for swimming and for recreational purposes, that's fine.

(Describer) On a sidewalk...

We're in Jackson Heights, the Little India of New York City.

(Describer) She browses different markets.

I love it here. There's so many cultures, so many colors, and I'm reminded of my childhood. I grew up in India, Kenya, and Egypt. There's just so much here.

(narrator) Living in large international cities, Tamar has seen firsthand the importance of balancing urban growth with preserving and protecting the environment. She knew early on this is how she wanted to make an impact. She devotes time to organizations like Engineers Without Borders.

(Describer) With two colleagues...

(Losleben) People can learn how to make and reconstruct it. If it breaks, it costs $10 or $15.

(man) It's easily serviceable also.

(Describer) They look at a sketch.

That's a very good innovative solution.

(Losleben) In El Salvador, I worked with a community that built one and they're still using it.

(narrator) As a project lead for Engineers Without Borders, Tamar worked with team members and local communities in constructing water storage, distribution, and purification systems for small villages in developing countries. Tamar is passionate about sharing her experiences with like-minded colleagues.

(Describer) In a meeting...

About half of the population in developing countries lack access to proper sanitation. One out of six people don't have access to an improved water source, so they're drinking water that could potentially make them sick or they could even die from.

(Describer) Alone:

I know as an environmental engineer that I impact people's lives, and hopefully they're healthier because of that. When I work abroad, I see the impact directly.

(Describer) A man pumps from a well.

It changes people's lives. They now have a water tap, or they're not getting sick, and we can talk about it, I can see it. I can see their joy and how thankful they are.

(Describer) Children carry buckets of water.

(narrator) Like many water engineers, Tamar finds herself both working and playing in and around water.

(Describer) She carries a surfboard.

We're at Rockaway Beach in New York, and we're heading out to the ocean to see if there are some waves to catch this morning. When surfing, I see lots of marine life. I've seen porpoises and I see whales.

(Describer) On a wave, she stands up on the board. Later...

Pretty big whale, I don't know what kind. It jumped in the air twice and went down.

(Describer) She rides a bike.

I also love to bike around the city, into Central Park, along the rivers. And I sometimes bring my paints.

(Describer) She paints in a book.

I grew up really intrigued by nature and found that I had this desire to try and capture some of the beauty. Environmental engineers are very much optimists, and sometimes we're confused for idealists, but it's just that we see an issue or something that could be mitigated, something damaging the environment or people, and we have ideas for solving that problem. It may not be a perfect solution initially, but we return to the problems and keep working. I think our hope is that things can be better.

(narrator) Environmental engineers like Tamar are experts in pollution control, industrial hygiene, hazardous waste management, water supply, radiation protection, waste water management, public health, and land management. They may work in engineering firms, universities, private research firms, corporations, testing laboratories, and government agencies of all types.

(Losleben) Someone who wants to be an environmental engineer should have an interest in people and in science and be strong in math. We use lots of chemistry, we do calculations on dosages, flow rates. But I think someone who has a strong interest in science and people would be a good environmental engineer.

(narrator) Environmental engineers typically hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil, Mechanical, or Environmental Engineering. Most continue on to get a Master's degree in Environmental Engineering. It's quite a large facility.

(Losleben) My dream is to work abroad on international water projects to help people get better access to clean, safe water. Water is a need that is global, and I think that need will be there, and so will environmental engineers.

(Describer) Titles: The opinions expressed in this program are strictly those of the speakers. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Produced by Post Modern Company for the National Science Foundation.

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Environmental scientist Tamar Losleben explains how environmental engineers research and plan the best ways to use resources to satisfy both human and environmental needs.

Media Details

Runtime: 8 minutes

Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 1
10 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 3
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 4
6 minutes
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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 5
8 minutes
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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 6
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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 7
8 minutes
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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 8
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 9
8 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 10
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12