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A Spotlight on Environmental Engineering

Caryn Quist headshotCaryn Quist’s (’09) passion for science began in high school, “I had a teacher named Mr. Rogers, I kid you not!” Caryn laughed. “It was during this class that I fell in love with chemistry. Everything came to life for me in the lab.” When it came time to decide where to go to college, Augsburg was the perfect fit. “I loved the well-rounded aspect of a liberal arts education in the heart of Minneapolis,” Caryn shared. She graduated in 2009 with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Biology.

Caryn on the cover of the Fall 2007 Augsburg Now magazine
Caryn featured on the cover of Augsburg Now in 2007

At Augsburg, Caryn participated in a research project through the Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) program. “I worked with the Biology Department where we studied orchid cloning in partnership with a local greenhouse.” Caryn shared. Her involvement with URGO and working as an assistant to Dixie Shafer, Director of URGO, made a lasting impression. “Dixie strikes the difficult balance of holding very high standards yet leading with empathy,” Caryn said.

Dixie instilled the importance of networking which led Caryn to connect with a variety of professionals in her field. “I got lucky and met with a Chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota who was doing collaborative work in civil and environmental engineering. He picked up on my curiosity and told me to look into that area further,” Caryn reflected. She went on to earn her masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 2011.

 

CLEARING THE AIR

Caryn accepted a job offer in California after grad school and has remained there since. She spent the first few years working on several soil and groundwater cleanup projects in California’s Central Valley. “It was a great experience, but I eventually realized it wasn’t something I wanted to become an expert in,” Caryn said. This led to her transition to the industry side where she focused on environmental compliance at an Intel semiconductor fab. Later she pivoted to a local government agency strictly focusing on regional air quality. She applies all this experience to her current position as an Environmental Manager at Meta (formerly Facebook). “I took this job because I wanted to have a say in how data centers were being designed from an air emissions perspective and make sure we are being good stewards of local and regional air quality.”

 

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

The connection between air emissions and digital-driven corporations may not be given much thought by people, but it’s an extremely crucial component to operations and the decisions made now will weigh heavily on the future. “The data center sector is growing at a very fast clip and it’s very important to be cognizant of the environmental footprint they have during their entire life cycle,” Caryn stated. 

Climate change and environmental justice are two interconnected issues that are central to the future trajectory of the civil and environmental engineering field. “Environmental justice is the concept that while everyone has a right to be protected from environmental pollution and live in a clean and healthy environment, studies show a strong disparity of who has access to that along lines of race, income, national origin, and language proficiency. Environmental justice populations continue to be vulnerable to the health risks associated with living in polluted areas and are also commonly disenfranchised to do anything about it politically. Climate change is projected to exacerbate all of this.” Although we have a long way to go in confronting these issues, the good news is that many are stepping up to collaborate in government, the private sector, nonprofits, and academia. Consumers have also become more savvy about greenwashing tactics and are starting to understand the lifecycle footprint of our everyday lives.

When asked what kind of legacy she wants to leave behind, Caryn simply stated: “Creating tangible changes on the road to a more sustainable future for future generations. For example, the data center industry, like many others requiring 24/7 operations, still heavily relies on backup diesel generators. I’d like to eliminate that need some day and work myself out of a job!”

Michael Wentzel: Teaching Excellence

The Augsburg Podcast features voices of Augsburg University faculty and staff. We hope this is one way you can get to know the people who educate our students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. Subscribe on Itunes.

 

Mike Wentzell
Even as he teaches chemistry, professor Michael Wentzel also teaches persistence: the drive to try, fail, and try again. To be better than yesterday… and even better tomorrow.

 

Meet Spirit of Augsburg Award Winner John R. Holum

Dr. John Holum
Dr. John Holum and his daughters, Kathryn and Ann

John R. Holum, Ph.D., is a beloved Augsburg University retired professor whose legacy spans over 30 years as faculty. He is a prolific writer who has published dozens of books and peer-reviewed papers, which have inspired not only generations of students who read his chemistry textbooks, but also thousands of researchers and teachers around the world.

One nominator says this of Holum in a letter of support: “In his life and work he embodies the very ethos of Augsburg’s commitment to the education of the whole person…Dr. Holum’s approach to pedagogy was both engaging and inspiring…he made the material accessible to all and exciting to learn. He was articulate and patient.”

After serving in the Army, where he enjoyed a community of fellow scientists, Holum briefly taught chemistry at Pacific Lutheran University on the West Coast. Drawn to Augsburg in 1957 because it was at the center of population density for Lutheran students in the United States, Holum had a vision to empower the next generation of science and medicine students to be faithful Christian witnesses in a variety of industries and locations.

He came to Augsburg with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and began to teach chemistry to nurses and pre-med students. Holum continued to work at Augsburg until his retirement in 1993, also teaching advanced organic chemistry and environmental chemistry, which students said should be required for all their classmates.

The more students he got to know—including one exemplary Augsburg student, Peter Agre ‘70, who later won a Nobel Prize for chemistry—the more he realized the caliber of their character, intelligence, and diligence. This deepened sense of appreciation for his students transformed into a drive to write textbooks that better suited the needs of students learning in his classrooms and others studying the alluring complexities of chemistry. Through discussions with traveling textbook salespeople and a summer of long days researching with a grant from the National Science Foundation, his creation of a single textbook developed into a successful writing and publishing career that complemented his teaching in the classroom.

Holum’s lifelong passion for academic excellence and support of students on their educational journey reflects Augsburg’s anchoring principles of robust liberal arts and professional studies, guided by the faith and values of the Lutheran church. Generations of students can attest to the transformational power of learning embedded within Holum’s life and career. He was kind and generous as a professor, and is a man who lives a life of faith and service beyond the classroom.

Nothing Retiring About Life after Research

George Johnson ’65 counts his time at Augsburg as “the days of Courtland Agre.” In those days, Johnson was on a mission to pursue chemistry.

Johnson 3Johnson came to Augsburg determined to do something good with his life, and for the cum laude chemistry graduate from Annandale, Minn., science was the path to that goal. He remembers the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood as a dicier place than the small town where he grew up, and his urban education was eye-opening. The community work he saw happening on and around campus struck a chord with Johnson, who, growing up, was eager to help people. He pursued a career as a research scientist to do what he could to help better lives.

These days, thanks to a mission of another kind, he keeps up with Pakistani English-language newspapers, and has a new perspective on a world he knew nothing about six years ago. He came to know more—and to teach, another thing he’d never done before—when his church in Bethesda, Bradley Hills Presbyterian, connected Johnson and his wife, Leslye, with Forman Christian College University in Lahore, Pakistan.

In January of this year, he helped organize a workshop on chemical pharmacology in Lahore, Pakistan, after he and Leslye spent the past three-and-a-half years teaching in the sciences, from undergraduates to PhD students.

Both hold PhDs in biochemistry, and though they’d never taught before, that didn’t deter the couple who saw their mission trip there as an opportunity to learn about the world as it really is, through direct engagement.

Road to Lahore

After spending more than 35 years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, where he worked as a laboratory investigator and as a research grant manager in drug discovery and development, Johnson and Leslye, also a career research scientist, were ready for a new adventure.

They weren’t looking for a cruise. Continue reading “Nothing Retiring About Life after Research”