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Student Sustainability Research Award Winner Series: Meet Paloma Vila

This is the second in our four-part series celebrating winners of student sustainability research prizes co-sponsored by Gale-Cengage Learning and the university libraries at Temple University and the University of Delaware. See our first post in the series here.

The prizes, and this blog, are supported by GREENR (Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources), an interdisciplinary web portal and database for environmental and sustainability studies, available at participating libraries (including the University of Delaware and Temple University) worldwide. GREENR is a valuable asset for any student, researcher or instructor focused on the field of environmental and sustainability studies, offering impressive assets in academic journals, news, video, statistics, primary source documents and case studies. Check to see if GREENR is available at your library, or ask your librarian to request a free trial.

Paloma Vila, with co-authors Tom Gallen and Jennifer L. Huber, was honored with a Library Prize for Undergraduate Research on Sustainability and the Environment at Temple University, for “Harvesting Stormwater for Urban Farm Irrigation.”

We asked Paloma via email some questions about how she became interested in environmental and sustainability studies, about advice she would give to other environmental studies students on how to get involved in sustainability, and about how she is now putting her degree to use in her career. For more stories about what it’s like to be an environmental and sustainability studies student, please check out our on-going series, The Life of an Environmental Studies Student.

How did you become interested in environmental and sustainability studies in college? Tell us the story of how you became engaged in sustainability in your college career?

I grew up with a strong connection to the earth and the environment, reuse and recycling, and sustainability issues before that buzz word existed. After some soul searching about which major to choose, I decided that environmentalism and sustainability was my biggest passion, and that I wanted to actively and physically work to minimize humans’ effect on our planet, which is why I chose environmental engineering. Prior to choosing my major though, it was my involvement with Students for Environmental Action that first introduced me to environmental action in college.

What lessons did you learn through your research? What major discoveries or new ways of seeing the world would you share with others, based on your research? What was the hardest part about conducting your research and writing the paper? What was the most rewarding part?

I learned a lot about stormwater management and how important it is in Philadelphia. One of my biggest interests in sustainability is waste minimization, and I always enjoyed waste reuse projects, even just as a hobby at home. It was exciting for me to realize that stormwater management can be looked at as a large scale waste reuse; once that light bulb came on in my mind, I was eager to discover how many creative ways of minimizing waste water and pollution to the environment while recycling it into a valuable resource were out there.

The most difficult part about the research was time management. Our paper was essentially a write-up of our entire design project. Juggling the report writing while simultaneously coming up with the design itself and all the issues concerned with that, not to mention coursework for other classes, was quite a challenge. But, of course, having a completed product that we could be proud of was really rewarding. And winning the Temple Library Prize for Undergraduate Research in Sustainability and the Environment was like getting a huge pat on the back for all of our hard work!

Do you have any advice for future environmental and sustainability studies students? For your peers at other universities, or at your own university?

Get involved in professional, student, and/or volunteer organizations related to your major, environmental activism or both if that exists. The interaction with students from different backgrounds and disciplines and the activities you participate in will be a very valuable supplement to your education. Plus, it’s a great way to have some fun, make new friends, network, keep abreast of current environmental issues, and stay focused on your goal to better the environment!

What are your plans after graduation? Do you hope to enter a field where you can use what you’ve learned about the environment?

I am currently working at an Roux Associates, which is an environmental consulting firm which works primarily with remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater. This is exactly what I hoped to be doing after graduation, as I’m putting both my studies and passion for the environment to good use!

Posted on: December 13, 2011, 9:00 am Category: GREENR News, Profiles in Sustainability Education, The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: , ,

One Response

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  1. Cory K (aka "Big Pan") said

    It is so very encouraging to hear student success stories related to Sustainability! Thank you GREENR for your support and active engagement in the advancement of sustainable research and education. And congrats to Paloma! I think “waste” water is certainly a critical issue to continue being worked on on the path to sustainable existence on our planet- THANK YOU!! (P.S.:Would love to see the research… ;) )

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