Environmental engineer

Women in Science: Noha Gaber — Building Bridges of Leadership and Collaboration

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Noha Gaber

When I meet with college students to talk about the benefits of government service and the great work that we do at EPA, I usually put up a slide of a number of beautiful bridges and challenge the students to think about what I do here. After several guesses, I reveal that although I am an environmental engineer by training, I use my technical knowledge to serve as a metaphorical bridge builder at EPA. In my role as the Director of EPA’s Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling, I work with staff from across EPA to help ensure the quality, consistency and transparency of the computer models that EPA relies upon in its work. We are also working with a large number of U.S. and international collaborators to use these powerful tools to help promote sustainability and think of the environment as an integrated whole.

Shortly after I joined EPA, I came up with another bridge-building project! In early 2006 I started the EPA Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) and worked with a small group of young EPA employees to develop ELN into a thriving organization that is helping to create a more collaborative, innovative and effective EPA. In just 5 years, ELN has grown to over 1000 members in EPA’s HQ and Regional Offices.  One of our coolest activities in 2010 was the ELN Chesapeake Bay Expedition, which provided a great leadership, development, networking and community service opportunity for about 50 ELN athletes and volunteers.

I joined EPA five years ago driven by a dream to make a significant positive impact in environmental and human health protection. I’ve learned a lot in this short time — about the Agency and its diverse programs and activities, the many dedicated and talented individuals who work here and about myself as a woman who builds human bridges. Above all, I’ve learned some important lessons about leadership, collaboration and making innovative ideas a reality. I leave you with my favorite motivational quote: “Collaboration: When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts and talents come together … expect a masterpiece.”

About the author: Noha Gaber is a team leader in the Office of the Science Advisor and enjoys participating in many community service, cultural and outdoor athletic activities in her spare time.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Environmental Engineering in the Office of Water

My sister once asked me to speak to her fifth-grade class on career day. All the kids raised their hands when I asked them if they thought it was important to protect the environment. However, they were stumped when I asked them if they knew what I do as an environmental engineer at EPA. To be fair, this is a difficult question, as environmental engineering is a relatively new profession and it includes topics from many other studies like biology, chemistry and hydrology. I told the class that my job is to collect, organize, and analyze data so that decisions can be made on how best to protect the environment. To be a little more specific for all of you who think you are smarter than a fifth grader, my job is to help establish technology-based regulations to control industrial wastewater discharges to sewage treatment plants and to lake and rivers.

To better explain how I use science to inform EPA’s decision-making, I described to my sister’s class how I use wastewater sampling, industry surveys, and visits to industrial facilities to gather the basic data to help identify the best available technologies for treating industrial wastewater. My colleagues and I sample industrial wastewater to identify pollutants in the wastewater and to quantify the amount of pollution. Industry surveys help us identify available and affordable best management practices and technologies to reduce and treat industrial wastewater. Finally, visits to industrial facilities help us learn more from industry experts on how to better reduce and control industrial wastewater pollution. I use the data we collect and my engineering skills to identify the capabilities of different technologies to treat industrial wastewater and the related costs and pollutant reduction benefits. For example, some wastewater technologies like reverse osmosis can produce very clean water but certain pollutants must be removed prior to their treatment by reverse osmosis. The industry data we collect (wastewater sampling, industry surveys, site visits) help me identify how to configure different wastewater treatment technologies for the different wastewaters across all industry sectors for EPA’s studies and regulations.

One of my favorite site visits involved taking a helicopter to an offshore oil and gas platform in the Gulf of Mexico. I went to this platform to see how they reduced their discharges of drill cuttings, the small bits of rock excavated by the well drilling, through use of newer and better technology. I gathered the information from this site visit and other data to establish a new rule to control the amount and types of wastes that can be discharged from offshore oil and gas platforms. We estimate that industry’s compliance with our new rule reduced the annual discharge of drill cuttings by 118 million pounds! Numbers like that helped my sister’s students understand how I use science and engineering to help protect the environment. And by the end of my career day talk, all the kids thought my job wasn’t so boring after all, as I get to visit interesting places, meet people from all over the country, and occasionally do cool things while protecting the environment.

About the author: Carey Johnston works as environmental engineer in EPA’s Engineering and Analysis Division within the Office of Water. The Division works to reduce industrial and municipal impacts on water bodies and aquatic life by identifying technological solutions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.