College students frequently want to save the world. When the part they are interested in saving is water and they are studying at the University of Texas, Austin, they often approach chemical engineer Danny D. Reible for career advice. Most assume they can make the biggest difference in a developing country, working to remedy the shortage of clean drinking water, says Reible, a professor of environmental health and director of UT Austin’s Center for Research in Water Resources.
However, Reible is quick to recommend another path. “I tell students that they are better off focusing their careers on the treatment and reuse of industrial wastewater, in both developing and developed nations.” This route offers them the best career opportunities and is “equally important to solving the potable water problem,” says Reible, who cochairs the International Society for Water Solutions, an American Institute of Chemical Engineers group founded in 2012 to focus on industrial water management.I think this is interesting, in that it comments tangentially on Paul Hodges' opinion that chemists should be thinking about developing nations and their access to water as a place where chemists could do some good (and make some money.)
What are they looking for in their employees?
Chemistry and chemical engineering students who aspire to work in the field of industrial wastewater treatment and reuse should obtain a strong foundation in inorganic chemistry and also take water treatment technology courses that are typically offered within universities’ civil and environmental engineering departments, Reible says. Knowledge of technologies that use microbes, membranes, or specialized materials such as nanomaterials helps candidates stand out among other job seekers, he adds.
Koon recommends that students looking to break into the industrial wastewater treatment field gain experience by working on projects with organizations such as Engineers Without Borders or through internships or short-term jobs.
In addition, students should polish their interview skills. “They must be alert to the world around them and be able to carry on an interesting conversation in interviews,” Koon advises. They should be able to project the qualities that employers are looking for in entry-level employees. Companies are seeking people who “exhibit ethical behavior, can work effectively with others, and have the potential to become leaders within their organizations,” he explains.The recommendation for inorganic courses and looking for training for other departments is useful, I think.