Menu
Jump to content

What's with the ads?

lewelma

Need advice on retraining in Environmental Science/Engineering/Chemistry

Recommended Posts

I'm planning my future. 🙂 I've got less than 2 years left in this homeschool gig and I'm ready to start fresh and retrain. I've been doing quite a lot of soul searching and need you guys to help me figure out a path forward.  As you can see from my title, I'm slowly circling in on what I'm interested in, but I need to go back to university to retrain.

So my current skill set/resume: I've got a PhD in mathematical biology, a teacher's registration, and recent work experience (past 7 years) as a 'private teacher' working with at risk youth and gifted students focused in math and science. (I've decided to avoid the use of the term 'tutor' as it downplays what I do). I teach the NZ equivalent of AP level in 6 courses: Calc, Stats, Chem, Physics, Bio, and Geography, and all the way down to 9th grade in all subjects. Previous work experience is in science research, statistician, and principal of a preschool. 

Costs/lifespan: So cost is not a problem as university here is 9K/year and I can easily cover that with my tutoring (I made 50K last year so can definitely do fewer hours and still cover costs). The university is in walking distance.  The bigger issue is of course that I am 50, so would be out at 55.  My grandmother lived by herself in her own house until 103, and my dad worked as the head of the department at his university until 80, so I've got plenty of time in me unless something goes wrong.  I'm expecting age-bigotry, but figure that worse case scenario, I can volunteer my services to conservation groups if no company/government department will hire me. 

So, where I need some help.  I love chemistry, but I don't like the lab.  I want to do something meaningful/useful because I don't need the money, this would be for me.  I want colleagues.  I've considered 2 different areas. 1) renewable energy because NZ is trying to go all renewable in the next few decades so there will be jobs, and geothermal is definitely chemistry and physics mixed.  2) water and soil remediation.  I think this is likely a better bet because of my PhD in ecology might actually be worth something for getting employed and for actually doing the job.  NZ is having all sorts of trouble with water quality right now and there is a huge interest in getting it cleaned up.  

Where I'm kind of confused, is what degree best prepares me for either one of these options?  For renewable energy, there is a BSc in renewable energy studies at my local uni that is new as of 2 years ago, and focuses in science but also policy.  Clearly, engineering is an option, but I'm not interested in building anything, rather I like the chemistry (I found the chemistry of fracking fascinating when I was helping my older with a research paper). Plus the engineering school is in Christchurch, so would require a move (dh could be up for it). If I do a degree in Chemistry, I think I could do plenty of classes in hydrology, geology, fluid dynamics, etc.  And I could actually figure out what coursework is done for the chemical engineering and mimic what would be useful for soil/water remediation at my local school (lots of the chemical engineering down in Christchurch is in food or industry, so less useful for me).

My dh has suggested that the uni won't let me do a BSc anyway as I already have one, so I might be able to do 2 years of non-degree bearing coursework in prep for a masters degree.  

Ok, that's all I've got (well, not really). What suggestions can the hive give me as to questions to ask, options to consider, etc

Ruth in NZ

Edited by lewelma
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exciting times for you, lewelma! 🙂  I found some links that you might like to dig through that are mostly focusing on the area of water and soil remediation (because if you love chemistry, that's where you're going to find more of it :).

https://www.eco.ca/career-profiles/remediation-specialist/#education-and-requirements

https://www.ualberta.ca/extension/continuing-education/programs/environmental-studies/environmental-remediation

https://www.biozone.utoronto.ca/

https://www.environmentalscience.org/degree/environmental-biotechnology

Those are mostly Canadian links because... I'm Canadian. 🙂  I think your best bet is to look into a Master's degree in biotechnology.  From the BioZone link:

Bioremediation and Wastewater Treatment

BioZone uses enzymes, microbes, and microbial communities to remove organic contaminants from subsurface environments, waste waters, and industrial processes.

That's not to say that all remediation would be based on microbial or enzymatic interventions but I think it's definitely a hot field of inquiry right now.  The work on Ideonella sakaiensis is fascinating.

Just some thoughts and links to get you going.  My degree was in organic chemistry and polymer chemistry so I'm more familiar with the concepts of making lots of pollutants than with remediating their effects. 😉 🙂  I DEFINITELY get the love of chemistry, though.  Keep us updated as you research - I'm interested to know where this takes you!

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was hoping you would see this and respond!  Thanks for the links!  I'll do some reading and some cross referencing with my local uni offerings, and then ask some more questions. 🙂 

Edited by lewelma
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I used to work as an environmental consultant many years ago.  I had an engineering background but did not do any engineering and never used my fluids, statics/dynamics, etc. I did use chemistry a lot, and physics relating to gases and liquids, etc.  I did a lot of regulatory compliance auditing, report writing, site assessments (for property transfer), voluntary cleanup program environmental assessments and air permitting. 

The people I worked with that dealt with soil and groundwater remediation were all geologists, mostly with masters degrees.  YMMV of course--our regulations here in the U.S. are likely to be quite different. However, if you do intend to go into soil and groundwater versus wastewater treatment, water pollution, etc.,  I would strongly suggest geology in your course of study. It is really impossible to navigate the ins and outs of soil and groundwater remediation without adequate instruction on soil types, aquifers, groundwater movement, etc.  

The other possibility is that you could look at working in a lab with soil and groundwater samples and doing the analysis, or with one of the companies that specializes in treatment methods for soil and groundwater. There are several layers of involvement with a case of groundwater contamination, for example--there are the drilling companies that install the sampling wells, the underling geologists that collect the samples of soil or groundwater, the lab that analyses the samples, the map makers that map the concentrations over a given area, the more senior geologists that interpret the data and analyze movement of contamination, and the companies that produce treatment chemicals that can be applied into the wells in the attempt to break down a contaminant, and/or install a piece of equipment that treats soil or groundwater.  Often times there is regulatory involvement in the process if it affects a local aquifer, for example, in which case some steps might need approval from that entity.  

 

Edited by cintinative
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for those ideas and telling me about your experiences!  I actually also had geochemistry in my title at first but then it got too long!  I definitely think geology is key, but you are saying the masters is in geology and not chemistry, which makes sense. They don't have one in geochemistry. I've been looking at my local uni's offerings and there is lots of geology, chemistry, environmental science, and earth science; but basically no engineering. So chemical engineering or environmental engineering is out unless I move. 

What kind of skills might I need.  Which math?  Should I take a course in GIS? In simulation/mathematical modelling? These technical courses seem to be spread throughout many different majors, so I are not easily identified as geology/chemistry useful.  There were lots of classes in field work in geology and earth science. 

What about policy courses?  There were quite of few of those in environmental science. 

Basically, I think I would be building my own course of study as prep for a masters, so I really think I get to pick and choose what I think would be most useful, rather than following some preset undergrad program. 

Edited by lewelma
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm also interested in feedback on the age thing. 55 is pretty late to walk into the job market. But I look young -- just need to dye my hair. 🙂 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/6/2020 at 2:24 PM, lewelma said:

I'm also interested in feedback on the age thing. 55 is pretty late to walk into the job market. But I look young -- just need to dye my hair. 🙂 

My dad was around that age when he got his current job.  He had retired from 30+ years at a paper mill (had worked his way up and had been a superintendent for the last 10+ years) a few months earlier.  That job was stressful and had very long hours.  At his new job, he is only doing the part of his old job that he loved the most.  He now works for Focus on Energy and helps paper mills save energy and money.  A lot of people at his job are older, I think partly because it receives its funding each year and offers no insurance.  He is just happy to be doing something that he loves and making some money while doing it and will continue to do so as long as his health and the funding holds up.

Edited by Lisa in the UP of MI
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took a number of geology electives during my chemistry degree - the two go very well together. 🙂  When I was young, I considered geochemical engineering as a degree but the career path for that always seemed to lead to petrochemical companies and I wasn't sure that that was what I wanted to do.  If I was to do something other than/in addition to teaching chemistry now, it would be archaeological chemistry.  I've always been fascinated by the application of chemistry to history. 🙂  You're inspiring me to do some research and digging of my own, lewelma!

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...