A Week in the Life of an Environmental Engineer
We don't often think about how contaminants or solid waste are transported around our towns or cities every day. However, for environmental engineering students like Bridget Mansfield, this is just another day at uni. Read about a week in Bridget's jam-packed life from her internship with the CSIRO to her job as a bartender and everything in between. Fun fact about Bridget: she's visited 18 countries in the last 4 years and doesn't intend to stop travelling anytime soon!
9 am – 4 pm: Internship
This term I am interning at CSIRO's Land and Water Research Centre, mainly working with their Aquatic Ecotoxicology and Analytic Chemistry Teams. This typically involves setting up experiments, entering data and ensuring that all laboratory work runs smoothly.
4 pm onwards:
I typically take Monday afternoons to prepare myself for my weekly uni classes. This means completing pre-work or catching up on the recorded lectures that I am unable to attend.
11 am – 2 pm: Seminar for Solid Waste Management and Contaminant Transport
I get a bit of a sleep in on Tuesdays and leave for uni at around 9 am. My seminar consists of a 2-hour lecture-style demonstration presenting theories of waste management or contaminant transport, followed by an hour of tutorial questions with time allocated for asking questions.
2 – 4pm: Study session
Environmental engineering courses typically involve a number of group assignments each term. I allocate this time to meet up with my fellow group members so that we can organise any upcoming assignments or work on our own sections.
4-6pm: Engineering Geology and Applied Geotechnics Lecture
While this class is fairly interesting and quite different from any of my other courses, it can be difficult to maintain focus after a long day of uni.
Tip: Maintaining consistency within your weekly schedule e.g. attending lectures (even if they're after a long day of work!) and setting aside specific study times prevents you from becoming overwhelmed with course work and falling behind!
10 am – 12 pm: Engineering Geology and Applied Geotechnics Tutorial
This tutorial occurs in a more casual format than other engineering tutorials. Tutors typically walk around to answer any questions that students might have, and marks are given for actively participating and attempting to complete the tasks given. This is really helpful as it ensures that you have a proper understanding of the topics.
I take these few free hours to catch up with friends and eat lunch, giving myself a relaxing break before another afternoon of classes.
2-5 pm: Seminar for Solid Waste Management and Contaminant Transport
I finish the day with another Solid Waste lecture – while it may sound like a pretty boring (or gross) subject to some, it's really fascinating, especially if you are interested in the processes behind environmental management and pollution control.
12-4pm: Engineering Operations and Control Lecture and Tutorial
My last classes of the week are definitely the most challenging. This subject has a focus on engineering economics and project management, and while I find it difficult, it is always insightful to learn about a different branch of your engineering field.
After uni on Thursday, I head straight to my part-time job as a bartender at a local pub. After work, I make sure to get a good night's rest before a busy weekend.
On Friday I have another day at my internship with CSIRO, typically preparing for any experiments that need to happen the following week. After that, I sometimes do another shift at my part-time job or take time to catch up with friends.
Saturday and Sunday:
I usually have a couple of shifts at work over the weekend. I also allocate time to complete any assignments or study for upcoming quizzes. I make sure to have a few hours each day just to relax, watch some Netflix or do something fun. I find that it's really important to maintain a balance between work, study and leisure time during university terms to ensure you get the most out of your time!
Bridget Answers YOUR Question
Why did you get into engineering?
As I was finishing high school, I was quite unsure of what I wanted to do next. I began looking for a degree that would allow me to combine my interests in mathematics, science and geography. This ultimately led me to Environmental Engineering at UNSW, and I haven't looked back since!