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SOCORRO, N.M. September 23, 2011– The campus environmental engineering club is officially the Best in the West!

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Members of the Environmental Engineering Club pose for a picture with their well-earned plaque declaring the club the top student chapter in the Rocky Mountain region. From left are Zachary Wasserman, Clayton Freed, Angie Bacigalupa, Bobby James, Danielle Shipley, Thomas Erbes, Kristen Henriksen, Marguerite Sheehan and club advisor Dr. Frank Huang.

The club is affiliated with the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation. The two organizations named the New Mexico Tech club the top student chapter in the Rocky Mountain region for 2010-2011.

The sponsoring organizations paid for current club president Danielle Shipley and club treasurer Zach Wasserman to attend their annual conference in Colorado in September to accept the award (and participate in the conference). The award included a small cash prize and a plaque.

Former club president Clayton Freed said the award is well-deserved for the Tech chapter.

“We’re smaller than average, but we put on a lot of activities,” said Freed, who has served three years as president. “We have a core group of students that is extremely active.”

Faculty advisor Dr. Frank Huang said, “I am pretty proud of them because within the Rocky Mountain region, we have all these big universities. Our students have put forth a lot of effort and they’ve done a great job.”

The other schools in the region are the University of New Mexico, University of Colorado, Colorado State, Colorado School of Mines and the University of Wyoming.

Freed said the club has put together a professional engineering panel to interact with students, participated in outreach efforts, organized professional field trips, sent students to conferences and competed in engineering challenges.

Last year, Freed helped organize what he called one of the club’s most important events: a panel of professional engineers to advise and mentor students. The club hosted a dinner for the professionals, which gave students a chance to ask questions of and interact with environmental and civil engineers.

“We wanted to see what things people want in the real world that we may not necessarily hear about through school,” he said. “Hopefully, that will become an annual event since we’ve done it two years in a row so far. It absolutely helps students get jobs and internships. The networking contacts are excellent.”

Freed first took over as president when he was a sophomore, a year after the club’s leadership all graduated.

Last year, then-president Sean Menk led a team that participated in a regional wastewater challenge. Menk, current club president Danielle Shipley, Megan Rosebrough and graduate student Thomas Erbes were one of only 12 teams that was invited to compete at the national event in California, which was also sponsored by the Wastewater Environment Fund.

In the spring of 2010, Freed, Menk and fellow Tech graduates Christine Polo and Amelia Symonds earned a second place award through the two professional organizations for their senior design project, in which they gave a complete recommendation for a water treatment plant in Denver (one of the largest treatment plants in Colorado).

Freed said that was another accomplishment that helped the Tech club win the award. The spate of awards and honors has also allowed the club to start filling up its trophy case in Jones Annex.

“When I was a freshman the case was empty,” he said. “Now, we’re filling it up. It looks impressive.”

The club’s field trips include destinations of interest to environmental engineers, including the Albuquerque wastewater plant, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, the Eagle Picher Superfund site north of Socorro and a composting facility in Albuquerque.

“Water and Wastewater facilities are often the easiest places to get hands-on experiences through tours,” Freed said. “But we’ve been to hazardous waste sites and the Albuquerque composting facility, where the residuals from the wastewater plant are composted with horse bedding and other materials from river banks. You wouldn’t think it’s too interesting to look at piles of compost, but it’s intriguing how they are using engineering to be more responsible with waste materials.”

In part thanks to club activities and involvement, environmental engineering students at New Mexico Tech are very successful at landing internships and launching careers upon graduation. Freed completed an internship at Denver Water during the summer of 2011. Five other students from the club had internships last summer at Sandia, Rio Rancho Utilities, and different mining companies.

The club meets twice a month – at 1 p.m. Fridays in Jones Annex 112. Anyone interested in joining – regardless of course of study – is welcome to join. For more information, email enveclub@nmt.edu.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech