Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Environmental engineering must also participate in responsibly using the natural resources of water, soil, and air. You will have to assess these resources and manage them within the framework of fragile ecosystems which have complex and unpredictable behavior. You will succeed in this particularly through rigorously using data from onsite measurements or from models. You will also be involved in natural risk assessment. Here, as well, your approach will involve an increasing use of environmental monitoring, a discipline that is experiencing a boom allowing an ever-more exhaustive collection of the primary parameters necessary for following and modeling environmental phenomena.
Video (in French): Gianluca Paglia, testimonial
Program presentation and study plan
BSc (180 ECTS credits)
You will acquire the fundamental scientific basics in mathematics and physics during your 1st year of study. The following two years include general training in environmental science (environmental chemistry, microbiology, soil science, atmospheric physicochemistry etc.) on the one hand, and classes devoted to engineering techniques (hydrology for engineers, sanitary engineering, water and waste management, quantitative methods, etc.) on the other. This joint program is complemented by a choice of optional classes.
After successfully gaining your BSc then MSc, as an environmental engineer, you must first and foremost come up with technical solutions for the many problems related to the environment and land. Whatever the professional organization in which you end up, you will regularly work in a multidisciplinary context which will involve the ability to listen and to negotiate. Your approach must consistently be a comprehensive one, which means that before suggesting a solution, you have to analyze the space-temporal context of the problem to be solved.
Bachelor and Master degrees in Environmental Engineering (2011)
Julien Omlin works as an environmental project manager for the CFF, in the infrastructure division.
… disorganized spatial planning, CO2 levels increasing, waste management—was the main reason I studied environmental engineering. But even if today I work as an environmental project manager, choosing this career had not always been obvious! At high school, I specialized in biology and chemistry, but then, I studied one year of psychology in a university. I eventually realized that I missed sciences and technology and I enrolled at EPFL.
My job at the CFF is to manage different projects, from planning to execution, and make sure that these projects comply with Swiss environmental law, one of the most restrictive and well-developed worldwide. I work on anything from building or modifying train stations, tracks and noise barriers, widening tunnels to adapt to the double-deck trains, to modifying the power supply. I have a multidisciplinary job, which requires to be very well organized and to respect deadlines. It also implies fieldwork, which was very important to me.
The environmental aspect plays a huge role in my company, at different levels. For example, using new rolling stock allows us to save energy. We also have to make sure that every project complies with Swiss law. And as a large company with almost 30’000 employees, the CFF also takes this environmental impact into consideration so they can be reduced with appropriate measures.
At the end of my studies, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to work. But I definitely wanted to put my skills into practice and acquire a first professional experience. I worked a couple of months for a small engineering office, but I was somehow still attracted to research. I came back to EPFL as a scientific assistant, as I didn’t want to start a PhD, so I could lead my own researches in a water related field. After two years, I finished my project and I started looking again for a job in the private sector.
Many of the people I studied with work in engineering offices, making technical studies for public or private clients. Other friends found a job in private companies or in the public sector. Now and then, I even collaborate with them on some projects, which is always nice!
Bachelor and Master degrees in Environmental Engineering (2011)
Program Manager (water, sanitation and hygiene) for a French NGO in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
… and I found an internship with the NGO WaterAid. I discovered there an amazing environment (the wild and autonomous Caribbean coast of Nicaragua), as well as very interesting development projects for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), in different indigenous communities. Among other things, my work included interactive mapping of water sources, the construction of water supply networks and rainwater harvesting systems, but also creating and reinforcing local capacities in those fields. I enjoyed my first responsibilities as a team leader, managing construction sites and keeping within budget. It’s the opportunity to acquire experience and find a job easily thereafter.
After this internship, I started working as a WASH project manager for ACTED in the DRC, as well as a base manager. This means not only implementing an extremely interesting development project for many communities, but also the great responsibilities that come with it. I have a lot of challenges: managing both construction and awareness teams, and dealing with logistics in remote areas. And all that is set in a beautiful place, between the jungle and the DRC’s big rivers!
A Master degree in Environmental Engineering at EPFL not only teaches you the technical tools, but gives you as well the capacities to learn and adapt to any situation. And this is a crucial point in the humanitarian field! To work for a NGO, SIE offers some very interesting classes: hydrology, public health engineering, water management, and of course, fluid mechanics. I would also recommend the option “water, soil and eco-systems engineering” for the Master degree, as this option prepares you well to work for countries in crisis or developing countries. An internship as an engineer in this field could also be a start.
NGOs need WASH engineers all over the world. Given the huge number of organizations (French, English, German, and Spanish-speaking) and the diversity of their actions and countries of intervention, there are many possibilities for students interested in a humanitarian job.
Bachelor and Master degrees in Environmental Engineering (2008)
Chantal Imhof works in a civil engineering office.
…Environmental Engineering. I come from that region and wished to contribute to risk reduction there.
Today, I am active in danger prevention in a civil engineering office in Sion. I focus on river flood management. It’s a domain that includes cartography of hydrological risks and projects dealing with flood risk management in torrents.
My first contact with risk management was at EPFL. I did an internship during my studies at a company specialized in the field, and during my Master work I studied health risks for researchers working with nanoparticles.
After receiving my degree, I worked in the environmental security domain for a railroad company. I was in charge of organizing security and environmental audits, analyzing existing tunnel security, managing pollution, and I was a representative for the company in a workgroup dedicated to reducing the risks associated with transporting dangerous merchandise.
During my studies, I was at interested in the sections “Water, Soil, and Ecosystems Engineering” as much as “Pollution Management and Industrial Ecology.” The pluridisciplinary education at SIE allows one to be flexible in the face of change and able to work in domains that are completely different. My professional activities center around management of many types of risk, and my experience has proven to me that it is possible to go from one domain to another.
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