In celebration of this week's Engineers Week, we talked to Alex Gerling, AWWA's reuse engineer, about her experiences.
What led you to being an engineer?
Alex: Growing up on the New York State Erie Canal and spending summers on Lake Moraine in Hamilton, NY, I've always enjoyed spending my free time by water either swimming or boating. My undergraduate institution, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, was situated on the shores of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. My undergraduate studies in this location provided me numerous opportunities to study the physical, chemical, biological, and geological properties of Seneca Lake and surrounding Finger Lakes.
Following my undergraduate studies, my interest in water resources culminated into a collaboration with the Western Virginia Water Authority as I pursued my Master’s degree at Virginia Tech. My research at the utility allowed me to not only conduct cutting-edge research, but also to conduct important outreach with the local community. This experience instilled my passion for water utilities and delivering safe and reliable drinking water supplies.
What's your favorite part about being an engineer?
Alex: My favorite part about being an engineer is the impact it has on others. Engineers tackle some of the world's biggest problems and discover innovative solutions to those problems. Engineers are responsible for designing the world around us and improving our communities and everyday life. Together we have shaped the way our world works.
What is a common misconception about being an engineer?
Alex: Engineers are nerds! Not true. I love being an engineer and I also love having fun and spending time with family and friends outdoors either skiing or hiking. It's OK to be a nerd. 😊
This year's Engineers Week theme is "Inspiring Wonder"? How do you create wonder in your work?
Alex: Collaborating with volunteers nationwide that share the same passion for the water community inspires me every day. I hope that connecting others to help effectively and efficiently manage water creates wonder for them and their own communities.
What advice would you give young ones who are interested in being an engineer?
Alex: Keep doing what interests you. There are so many different fields within engineering and it's important to enjoy your studies and discover what inspires you.
How can parents or teachers foster interest in the engineering field?
Alex: I think it is important for children to be exposed to all different types of fields. Math and science can be shared in a "fun" way through nature, experiments, and new technologies rather than a textbook. Inspiring and encouraging students to help solve real problems through engaging and hands-on engineering both inside and out of the classroom.