Our Industry Person of the Week is Dr. Parul Baranwal, Water Quality Program Manager.
Q: How did you get started working in your field?
Parul: As a child, I never envisioned myself becoming an engineer like my father, who is a businessman. My passion for education was nurtured from a young age, as my parents encouraged my academic pursuits and instilled in me the value of hard work and commitment. I was deeply intrigued by environmental and biological science, which drove me to enroll in a Biotechnology program at Dr. MGR University in Chennai, India. During my undergraduate studies, I worked as a tutor in mathematics and science to fund my education, while also excelling in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), which allowed me to enroll in a graduate program in Environmental Management at IIT Roorkee, India. Following my studies, I worked as an assistant professor in environmental engineering before becoming a research fellow at the regional office of the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, India. My work involved conducting quality inspections of water treatment plants and documenting environmental reports. Despite my achievements, I still yearned to contribute positively to environmental issues, which led me to apply for a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Toledo. During my PhD program, my research was focused on the treatment of drinking water utilizing economical and energy-efficient biological approaches. After completing my Ph.D., I accepted a new role as a water quality program manager in North Carolina, where I work on water quality compliance projects. As a project manager, I have learned to adapt to the unique needs of each project to bring them to completion. Although my career path was not intentional, I have found a role that I am passionate about and a company with an amazing culture.
Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Parul: Working with a group of individuals who share my love for water, water treatment, and ensuring its cleanliness is highly rewarding. I take pleasure in educating and training students and members of the community on the significance of water and its conservation. My ultimate goal is to contribute positively to the water sector and make a lasting impact on society.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Parul: If you’re passionate about STEM, explore opportunities to volunteer with organizations like AWWA, Water for People, WEF, and consider attending a college that offers programs in water/wastewater, science, or engineering. The water sector is a fascinating industry that not only improves the quality of life for people and boosts economic development, but also has a strong emphasis on innovation and digitalization, resulting in constant progress. With such a diverse array of fields involved, including technologists, chemists, engineers, biologists, computer scientists, laboratory technicians, mechanics, electricians, and more, the water sector offers a unique and ideal platform for professionals to excel and make significant contributions.
Q: Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Parul: There are many recent projects to be proud of, but I would like to mention two, both very different but challenging. One is the enhancing the removal of dangerous toxins from drinking water treatments using natural, cost effective and environmentally friendly degrading agents, which involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative experiments guided by microbiological, molecular biological and analytical chemistry approaches. The other one I am currently working on is identifying and implementing lead and copper replacement rules for underprivileged and underrepresented communities. This project is particularly challenging due to differences in water chemistry, plumbing materials, building configurations, corrosion control strategies, and other water system variations along with keeping public confidence.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Parul: If you’re breaking new ground, it’s essential to surround yourself with colleagues who inspire you to dream bigger and become curious about finding solutions to the most difficult challenges in your industry. Such an environment will encourage you to perform at your highest level, resulting in you becoming the best possible version of yourself.
Connect with Parul on LinkedIn.