Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Classroom: ENGS 37: Introduction to Environmental Engineering

Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin wants students taking his ENGS 37: Introduction to Environmental Engineering course to do a particular kind of problem solving: preventing environmental problems before they happen.

“I devote one third of the course to technologies of prevention,” he says. “We put environmental engineers right out front with the engineers who design the cars, the buildings, the coal plants, before their technology gets out the door. Thus we can avoid problems of pollution in the first place.”

Cushman-Roisin also introduces students to technological, policy, and risk-assessment issues related to water and air pollution, solid waste, and the fate and transport of pollutants in the environment. He pulls in environmental chemistry, life-cycle assessments, green design, and matters of scalability.

“One assignment was to design our own waste-water treatment plant,” says Sarah Hammer ’15, one of 62 fall-term ENGS 37 students. “I had to ask myself questions like, if I increased the amount of organisms feeding on the waste water, how would that affect the plant’s efficiency?”

The course included field trips to examples of existing solutions to environmental challenges: the Hanover Water Reclamation plant, the Dartmouth Organic Farm, and The Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center, which attained the highest level of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. “The Life Sciences Center has many science labs, so it’s really impressive that the builders still met all of LEED’s Platinum standards,” Cushman-Roisin says.

Students view Hanover’s water reclamation facility.
FIELD TRIP: Students view Hanover’s water reclamation facility. Photograph by Alex Arcone.

For Cushman-Roisin, environmental engineering borders on a calling. As he tells students in a series of bullet points early in the course: “Engineers are responsible for the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution has spread across the globe. There is a growing set of negative consequences, some local and some global. Thus, it stands to reason that engineers are called to play a central role in amending current technological practices and designing and deploying sustainable technologies.”

—Alex Arcone

Categories: The Great Hall, Classroom

Tags: curriculum, environment, faculty

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