Our Industry Person of the Week is Sydney Weiss, a Water Quality Scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in Chicago.
Q. How did you get started working in your field?
Sydney: I became interested in water at 16 years old. In high school, I took a class called “human geography” where we studied how different regions of the world obtained water. Growing up a mile and a half from Lake Michigan the idea of water scarcity was foreign to me. Once I realized billions of people lack access to clean water, I knew I wanted to do something to change that. Water was going to be my way to help the globe.
Q: What do you love the most about your job? What are you most proud of?
Sydney: I love the fact that I wake up, and I’m genuinely interested in my job and feel as though I have a purpose. I am proud that when people ask what I do, I get to tell them that I’m protecting their environment to ensure they can live better lives. I love how complex the environment is. It goes way beyond physics, chemistry, and biology, but incorporates all three major fields of science, and creates an ever changing and complex situation to work with.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering this line of work or new to the field?
Sydney: Talk to people! I can’t stress enough: research, figure out what interests you, find out who is in a career you aspire to be in and reach out to them in a professional manner to see if they have a moment to chat with you and provide guidance. Always keep learning! This field is always changing, new science, technology, and data comes out every day. We even have a new perspective in the last 6 months regarding water and the environment with respect to COVID19. Stay alert, eager, and excited. Things can get dreary in the world of water and climate change, but always keep in mind — you are doing something to make it better!
Q: Can you talk about a project you recently worked on?
Sydney: Currently I’m working with a state to create a training program for wastewater treatment operators. Wastewater operators will be trained by a world-renowned nutrient optimization consultant to implement low or no-cost changes to their wastewater treatment plant, by changing up the duration and sequence of aerobic, anoxic, and anaerobic processes to optimize nutrient removal
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Sydney: If you are considering working in the environmental field — do it! We need you — we need passionate, thoughtful, and ingenuitive minds. If you don’t choose to go into the environmental field as a professional, there are so many personal things you can do to get involved with — consumer habits, donations, political campaigns, lifestyle habits. What you do matters — collective action works.
THANK YOU, SYDNEY! WE LOOK FORWARD TO KEEPING UP WITH YOU THROUGH THE #PUMPTALK COMMUNITY!
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