Emma Liptrap’s passion for environmental engineering began in a parking lot.
During her freshman year of high school, she set up an observation experiment with a local engineering firm in her hometown of Salem, New Hampshire. Engineers brought her to a parking lot they were redesigning to mitigate stormwater runoff. They explained how water from large storms can be polluted by deposits on the ground and then flow directly into the nearby river.
“I had never thought much about parking lots or impervious surfaces before my observing experience, but after learning about their relationship to pollution and flooding, I became fascinated and determined to learn more about stormwater management. “says Liptrap.
Liptrap, a second-year civil engineering student at the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and a member of the honors program at Renée Crown University, is the recipient of an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2022, which will help support his studies.
Named for Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina, the prestigious award provides tuition support ($9,500 per year) and paid summer internships with NOAA to recipients. The award is designed to support students working in areas related to NOAA’s programs and mission. Students apply in their second year, complete an internship in their first year, and receive support and mentorship throughout their undergraduate career.
In high school, Liptrap began his environmental and stormwater work by starting a sustainability club. In the first year, she gave presentations on water conservation to elementary school students, organized litter pick-ups in local parks, distributed barrels of water to city residents, and led a planting a garden in a local park to promote wildlife.
She also worked as an intern with an architect who favored reusing materials and building for the future. “I loved learning about LEED certification and analyzing how we could make every building more sustainable,” she says. In her senior year, she won the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Workplace Learning Award for her internship work.
Liptrap enrolled at Syracuse because of the University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering program, SOURCE undergraduate research funding program, and research focused on intelligent water systems management. “I had also read that Lake Onondaga was one of the most polluted lakes in the country, and the opportunity to learn more about how it is being restored excited me,” she says.
His courses include technical engineering courses as well as social science courses to broaden his understanding of climate change. “During my courses, it was made clear to me that the work I will do in the future will require the cooperation of many stakeholders, including scientists, policy makers and the public. I understand how effective communication will be crucial throughout my career and I am developing these skills by learning how to give presentations and participate in team projects,” she says.
Liptrap works in the research lab of Cliff Davidson, Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Professor of Engineering at ECS. She is engaged in research using HYDRUS, a computer program that models the movement of water at different saturation levels. The research is being conducted on the 60,000 square foot green roof of the Onondaga County Convention Center (ONCenter) in Syracuse, studying its ability to prevent storm water from overflowing Syracuse’s combined sewer system.
“Having a reliable program like HYDRUS to model stormwater runoff will help engineers design green roofs in the future so they can be built to meet the specific needs of an area,” says Liptrap.
Liptrap also joined the University’s water chemistry lab last summer, focusing on determining the rate at which pollutants in the air are deposited on surfaces in Syracuse. “This project will help provide a model on how to measure dry deposition in urban environments so that these pollutants can be better studied in cities,” she says.
She is currently the Outreach Chair of the University Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is also a member of Engineering Ambassadors, a club that facilitates engineering projects for middle school students to introduce them to key engineering concepts.
In the future, Liptrap wants to design and implement green infrastructure in cities as a civil engineer with a private consulting firm. “Many cities across the United States have plans to become more sustainable, and managing water through green infrastructure will be critical to that work,” she says. “The Hollings Fellowship mentorship and internship opportunities will be invaluable in helping me better understand the state of the field and explore career paths.”
Liptrap worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the NOAA scholarship. ACSA offers applicants advice and assistance with applying and preparing for interviews for Nationally Competitive Scholarships. “Emma’s sustained interest in environmental issues and her particular interest in stormwater management made her an excellent candidate for the NOAA-Hollings Fellowship. Its interests and goals are clearly aligned with NOAA’s mission,” says ACSA Director Jolynn Parker. “We are thrilled that she has won this award and will benefit from mentorship and internship opportunities through NOAA.”
The NOAA-Hollings Fellowship 2023 application will open in September. Interested students should contact ACSA for more information: 315.443.2759 or [email protected]