A CE in a ChemE Lab

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 13 September 2015

As a civil engineer, I don’t have to take very many chemistry classes. Which is sad, because I LOVE chemistry. So, when I found an opportunity to work in an environmental lab that combined my interests in chemistry and water quality engineering, I was so excited. I sent some emails, talked to a few professors, and wound up with the job!

During the semester I work 10 hours a week at the
Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment
(ISEE), which is part of the Ohio Coal Research Center. I started out working on a project with a goal of finding a chemical method of treating the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction. I was in the lab, working directly with the chemicals, calculations, and analytical machinery needed to make progress on this project. I worked on that project for about a year, including winter break and over summer, where I would work 30-35 hours a week. It was awesome! I was involved every step of the way, from the writing of the standard operating procedure documents all the way to the analytical testing of the final product.

But, frankly, the best part of working at ISEE is the support that I get from everyone else who works there. There’s an amazing sense of teamwork and camaraderie–everyone is willing to help out in any way they can. We’re constantly learning from each other, and we’re learning things that typically aren’t taught to engineers in our respective specialties. I’m a CE essentially doing ChemE work, with a sprinkling of ME tasks here and there. I’ve learned to use power tools, which was a VERY big step for me because I’ve always been afraid of big, scary machines that could rip your hand off without a second’s delay.

I’m really glad that I ended up working at ISEE. In about a year and a half, I went from Undergraduate Research Assistant to Analytical Lab Lead. Now I have much more responsibility relating to the lab itself, rather than the individual projects that come through. It’s really uplifting to see so much growth in myself from when I started to now. It reminds me about how fluid education is, and how you’re always learning and always growing.

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