Environmental Engineering: A Degree With Endless Opportunities

"UBC Engineering will give you so many ways to get involved and there are so many opportunities out there."

Mark Peralta

Mark Peralta

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program:
  • Campus: Vancouver
  • Year: Finished 3rd year (as of July 2023)

Why did you want to study engineering?

I didn't really know what I wanted to do out of high school, and I was considering a career in politics or law. But I had an aptitude for STEM classes and my parents and family encouraged me to do engineering. It seemed like a good, prosperous career. I also saw it as a career where I could use my talents and follow my passion for environmental sustainability.  

Why did you choose UBC?

I am from Vancouver and I wanted to stay local. I also wasn’t sure what specialization I wanted to do, and I liked how UBC has a general first year compared to other schools where you have to lock in right away. I appreciated the opportunity to explore the different fields within engineering, and I knew I would have lots of options and opportunities here.

General First Year

How did you choose your specialization in environmental engineering?

I was interested in sustainability and knew that UBC Engineering integrates a sustainability perspective in every single department. An electrical engineer might work on power distribution systems. Chemical engineers might develop processes that are more eco friendly. But when you're in environmental engineering, it's very hands-on – and that appealed to me. You have to interact with communities. You're out in the field doing tests in natural environments. If you're in environmental consulting, you work with clients that could include Indigenous communities, municipalities and corporations looking to reduce their impact. 

Environmental engineering is very much in the real world and very practical. You're on the front lines of pushing sustainability for the world, protecting ecosystems, and creating and advocating for systems that are more eco friendly.

I love the community aspect as well. It's a very friendly program with lots of group projects and amazing professors.

Environmental Engineering

What are some of the highlights of your education so far?

One of the things I've liked about Environmental Engineering is that we have project-based courses in all three years. Last term, in our intermediate capstone project, we developed a stormwater treatment system for a recycling plant. When it rains on a metal recycling plant, pollutants get leached into water and the groundwater table. We developed a concept for a water treatment system for the recycling plant that included design drawings and a budget.

It was very rewarding to work on a real-world project like this and to present our ideas to the company.

Capstone Project

Mark's Field Trip

Are you involved in any clubs or teams?

I really enjoy being part of activities that promote student engagement. One year I was the E-Week rep for the Environmental Engineering Student Association and organized the E-Week team for a big engineering competition that happens in January. I then transitioned into a more student-life oriented role to organize events and volunteer for outreach at career fairs. In September I will be the VP Spirit for the Engineering Undergraduate Society and will be organizing a ball for the end of E-Week.

Environmental Engineering Student AssociationEngineering Undergraduate SocietyE-Week 

Tell us about your co-op work terms.

My first co-op term was with the Cowichan Valley Regional District on Vancouver Island where I worked in the Recycling and Waste Management Division. Some of my duties involved tackling recycling contamination, doing data collection, informing members of the community about recycling practices and doing community outreach.

My current co-op term is with WSP where I am working as an environmental technician in their water treatment group to coordinate a water sampling program for cruise ships. Cruise ships have treatment systems on board, and it's required that they get a third party to verify the performance of those treatment systems before discharging the treated water. I am organizing the third-party treatment. So when the cruise ships are in a certain port, say Barcelona or Rome or Miami, I arrange for a lab to arrive at the port, take water samples and conduct the tests, and I then write the report that summarizes the results. It's a very busy, 24/7 type job because you're dealing with clients all over the world. But it's been a great experience so far, and it's a great team filled with UBC alumni.

Cowichan Valley Regional DistrictWSP

What kind of impact do you hope to have with your engineering degree?

Environmental Engineering is one of those fields that is rapidly changing and the scope of our work is expanding day in, day out. There are so many opportunities to follow through on my goal of making a difference in my community. That was always my motivation, no matter if I was an engineer or a lawyer. Our program director Dr. Madjid Mohseni, for example, specializes in providing drinking water to remote First Nations communities that have been under boil water advisories. It is inspiring to see the impact of that technical work on providing clean water, protecting ecosystems and improving people's quality of life. You are there in a community, making lives better.

Dr. Madjid Mohseni

Any advice for high school students considering UBC Engineering?

I just want people to know that you can generate positive benefits for both yourself and the world if you pursue this field.

I also want people to know that there is more than one way to be an engineering student. You don’t have to be part of design teams or super academically focused. UBC Engineering will give you so many ways to get involved and there are so many opportunities out there – including opportunities that don’t relate to engineering at all! Keep an open mind to all the opportunities that you have because you have no idea where they're going to lead you.

UBC environmental engineering students taking a reading in an urban creek.

Environmental Engineering

As one of the most beautiful places anywhere, British Columbia is an ideal location to pursue an Environmental Engineering degree. UBC offers two Environmental Engineering Programs...

Environmental Engineering

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