Environmental Engineering Graduate Students Thrive in Water Industry

Under the guidance of Jeanette Brown, Manhattan College's civil and environmental engineering students are learning practical solutions to everyday issues.

Dave Dzombak and Jeanette Brown pose in front of window

Dave Dzombak, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon with Manhattan College civil and environmental engineering faculty member Jeanette Brown (right).

Five civil and environmental engineering students recently participated in the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) hosted by the Young Professionals Committee of the Water Environment Federation.

The team of five, composed of civil engineering graduate students Sarah Sansone ’20 (MS), Logan Graney ’18, ’20 (MS), Adina Rivera ’19, ’20 (MS), Chris Casey ’19, ’20 (MS), and Arijit Ghosh ’20 (ME), was led by Jeanette Brown, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Manhattan College. Brown also was recently named a distinguished member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The team was tasked with redeveloping a wastewater treatment plant to align with certain guidelines, and they were required to create a design report and give a 20-minute presentation at WEFTEC in Chicago, Illinois. The presentation was a culmination of a five-month team effort.

“A lot of what our job entails is being given a problem, designing or trying to come up with outcomes to fix those problems and presenting them to clients in a way that they will understand and to convince them to buy into the solution,” Sansone said.

The students were given a real-world environmental engineering issue that they were assigned to solve. “We were hired or tasked as the engineers to look at what was happening to the design [of a wastewater treatment plant] so that they couldn’t keep treating this amount of water [10 million gallons per day]. We went through a whole bunch of analysis and we found out that the water had been increasing,” said Graney.

What the students found most rewarding was being able to apply what they learn in their classes to practical engineering issues. “The formulas and equations are all things we get thrown at us in the textbook, but now with context that we got to design ourselves,” Graney explained.

Participants of WEFTEC also have the opportunity to network with working engineers in the industry from across the world at the conference.

The students credit Brown for this great experience and highly encourage undergraduate students to become involved with WEFTEC. “She’s probably the best lady I’ve ever met,” Sansone said. “I just think that even if it’s just a slight consideration, they [future students] should start talking to her now and try to get their eyes open to what this field is really all about.”

Brown is, in turn, incredibly proud of her team of students for their participation in WEFTEC, among more than 20,000 water professionals. “I think it is important for other members of the student body to see the activities that our students get involved with especially a nationwide competition such as this one,” she said. “The team worked really hard.” 


About the Water Environment Federation

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization of 35,000 individual members and 75 affiliated member associations representing water quality professionals around the world. Since 1928, WEF and its members have protected public health and the environment. As a global water sector leader, its mission is to connect water professionals; enrich the expertise of water professionals; increase the awareness of the impact and value of water; and provide a platform for water sector innovation.

Previously called the Federation of Sewage Works Associations (1928), the Federation of Sewage and Industrial Wastes Associations (1950), and the Water Pollution Control Federation (1960); the name was changed to the Water Environment Federation in 1991 to reflect an expanded focus of non-point and point sources of pollution. 

WEF and its global network of members and Member Associations (MAs) provide water quality professionals around the world with the latest in water quality education, training, and business opportunities. WEF’s diverse membership includes scientists, engineers, regulators, academics, utility managers, plant operators, and other professionals. WEF uses this collective knowledge to further a shared goal of improving water quality around the world.


–Madison Smith '21