Environmental Engineering Student Spotlight

Jessie Walsh PicJessie Walsh

Environmental Engineering

What attracted you to FGCU? 

FGCU is one of the most environmentally conscious universities in the U.S. As an Environmental Engineering major, that was one of the main things that grabbed my attention when I was looking at where to apply for college. Not only that, but the small class sizes make learning personable. I know all of my professors personally and they’re all very involved and passionate about their student’s learning. They care, unlike other universities’ professors with 200+ class sizes. 

Why did you choose engineering? 

My whole life, I’ve been extremely passionate about the environment and ways to protect it. So, Environmental Engineering is the perfect degree for me as it focuses on using mathematics, physics, chemistry, and technology in order to understand, mitigate, and reverse adverse environmental effects. 

What lesson from your professor is most memorable to you? 

The most memorable lesson from any professor I’ve had has been from my Calculus I professor. He told us that although college was going to be difficult and a huge commitment, it’s also supposed to be the best years of our life, and that we should get involved and have fun whilst completing our major. 

Do your lessons apply to real-world situations? 

Absolutely! Everything we use on a day to day basis has been engineered. Not only that, but our whole world is governed according to the laws of chemistry and physics. It’s really amazing to have background knowledge from courses such as engineering mechanics and hydrology, so that you can look at structures like bridges and dams and understand how they work. 

What lab experience do you have? 

Almost all of our core environmental engineering classes have labs incorporated. This allows us to apply everything we’ve learned in order to see the concepts first hand. For example, in wastewater microbiology, we do a DNA isolation lab, where we swab our cheek cells and go through a procedure in order to isolate singular DNA strands that you can actually spool and collect. We actually did the exact procedure that is done for any genetic analysis, such as 23andMe, or on an active crime scene. 

Have you done any research? If yes, explain the research responsibility and what you gained from the opportunity. 

Yes! I am currently involved in research with Dr. Lauren Redfern and Dr. Osman Karatum regarding the use of aerogels in landfills. We are trying to chemically design a specific aerogel in order to remove phthalates (a harmful chemical that can be found in high concentration in landfills) from leachate (the liquid that comes out of the waste in a landfill). 

What plans do you have after graduation?

My plans for after graduation are still a little up in the air. I’m looking into graduate school for chemical, electrical, or environmental engineering, as I’m passionate about doing research. I’m also looking into positions in renewable energy and environmental engineering within the National Park Service. Wherever I end up, I’m excited to see where my degree takes me!

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Current Graduate Student

Picture of Quillan AciroQuillan Arico

Master of Science in Engineering, Concentration in Sustainable Water Engineering and Thesis Option

What attracted you to FGCU?
I currently work full-time as a Laboratory Technician II in the Department of Biological Sciences (College of Arts & Sciences) at FGCU. Furthering my education with a higher degree while working for the university community was a no-brainer. Simply put, it just made sense - I work in a place of learning and am inspired to continue pursing my academic goals by the faculty and students I work with every day. Also, I am a lifelong learner and student myself, I truly enjoy going to school and interacting with students from all backgrounds.

Why did you choose engineering?
I chose to purse a Master of Science in Engineering because I felt that it would help me to stay competitive as a female researcher in STEM and hopefully enable me to have better opportunities for future career options, grant funding, and overall respect as a woman in science. I have never been intimidated to seek a path in the workforce that is traditionally male-dominated or put myself in challenging situations. The courses in this degree program have given me a well-rounded background in environmental engineering and built my confidence to apply that knowledge in analyses and experimental design.

What involvements have been the most exciting?
Honestly getting to do my graduate thesis research at a local landfill was quite exciting for me, much to my own surprise! I never thought I would have enjoyed it as much as I did. I was so thrilled to get up early and go to the landfill for data collection throughout March-December last year. The operators at the landfill were very welcoming and helpful, and we had a congenial rapport while I conducted research at their place of work. I could not have had a better research experience with a local municipality! We continue to work at that site now on a scale-up portion of the study, with a team of students overseen by Dr. Ashely Danley-Thomson and Dr. Lauren Redfern.

Do your lessons apply to real-world situations?
Absolutely! I am now able to have candid conversations with engineers about wastewater treatment and can recognize industry processes that before were foreign to me. Both my graduate coursework and thesis research have shown me how important it is to understand any critical issues within a project, in addition to the parts that work correctly.

What lab experience do you have?
I am classically trained in molecular-based laboratory techniques from working as a research assistant. I have a natural aptitude and joy for field data collection, I love working outside and on site! During my graduate studies, I have performed laboratory chemical constituent analyses on landfill leachate and performed microbial DNA extractions from soil for 16S metagenomics sequencing.

What plans do you have after graduation?
I am pursuing a career in both research and industry, integrating my various interests of molecular bioengineering, sustainable land and utility management, and water treatment.  

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Construction Management Student Spotlight

Blaine CM PicBlaine Nicholas

What attracted you to FGCU? 

I was born in Naples, FL and have loved the area since. I did not want to go out of Florida for college, so FGCU was a top choice for me. I wanted a more personal environment in the classroom as well. Plus, by being close to home I still get to go to the beach, fish, and ride dirt bikes on the weekends; how can you beat that. 

Why did you choose Construction Management? 

My family has owned/operated construction companies for many years in the Naples area. I have always had an interest in Construction and have been mechanically inclined from a young age. I also operate my own pressure cleaning/painting, handyman, and yard maintenance business since I was in high school. This program was a natural fit for me, and I have been very pleased since I enrolled. 

Have you done any internships?

I was fortunate enough to complete an internship with Manhattan Construction over this summer. I worked/studied under the Project Managers and the Superintendent on the RSW Airport Expansion and Passenger Boarding Bridge Replacement. I was able to use my learned knowledge from school and apply it to a real jobsite. The experience, co-workers I met, and reassurance I gained from this internship was priceless.