Working for an Environmental Engineering Opportunity Worth Having

Between two co-ops both abroad and in Boston, Charlotte Andrews, E’24, environmental engineering, MS’25, engineering and public policy, has figured out what role she wants to play in the environmental engineering field.

Charlotte Andrews, E’24, environmental engineering, MS’25, engineering and public policy, wasted no time engaging in Northeastern’s global co-op opportunities. Her first co-op was at GEYSER HPC in Leioa, Spain. It provided plenty of hands-on work right away, primarily remediating and evaluating contaminated sites. Risk assessment data was taken, and recommendations were then given to the related clients. Moving to Spain for a first co-op was a bold move, but Andrews says it was worth it, especially because she has a minor in Spanish.

“It was definitely ambitious, but I think it was really great,” Andrews says. “It gave me the opportunity to continue my Spanish… so I got to learn a lot of technical terms.”

Working in another country also broadened her familiarity with different work cultures both in Spain and beyond.

“I was working on some projects that were throughout the whole [European Union],” Andrews says. “[I was] able to work with people from universities in Italy who were doing research on certain remediation practices.”

For her second co-op, Andrews stayed close to Boston with a co-op at Environmental Partners. This co-op was a shift towards the infrastructural aspects of water treatment with a tighter overall focus on design.

“I ended up doing a lot of drinking water treatment designs, so designing drinking water treatment plants and getting really into the nitty-gritty of CAD and other small design decisions,” Andrews said.

She also visited drinking water treatment and wastewater management plants as part of her field work. This gave her the chance to see in real life what she had designed earlier on. Her work at Environmental Partners undoubtedly shaped her career decisions, as she is now looking for full-time work that focuses on the design aspects of water treatment.

Andrews on a road trip through Asturias, Spain during her first co-op.

The supportive environments at both of Andrews’ co-ops were fostered by several dedicated people. At GEYSER HPC, her supervisor, Marta Sanchez, served as a role model for her.

“She ran a bunch of different projects and was very assertive,” Andrews says. “I really looked up to her as a boss and as a person.”

Andrews admired Hanna Schenkel, the co-op coordinator at Environmental Partners and a Northeastern alumna, for similar reasons. In addition to providing encouragement, Schenkel taught Andrews graphic information systems, or GIS, which proved to be a valuable skill. Alston Potts, a project manager and Northeastern alumnus, also motivated her to focus more specifically on drinking water treatment.

Between the different work of each co-op, Andrews was able to consider a wider range of career opportunities.

“I really got to experience the breadth of environmental engineering,” Andrews says. “It’s nice to have had a lot of experience and know what [I] want to do.”

Beyond co-op, Andrews has been heavily involved with Engineers Without Borders since her first year at Northeastern. She has served as a lead to a design group and as Treasurer in the past, and her current role is as Program Director for the Panama chapter.

“[I’m] working on coordinating any progress on our Panama project in La Pedregosa, working on implementation, communicating with EWB USA contractors [and] delegating tasks to all our members,” Andrews says. “It’s been a really valuable leadership experience.”

Andrews is currently working towards a master’s degree in engineering and public policy as part of Northeastern’s PlusOne program. It was her co-op experiences that helped her realize that this was the PlusOne she wanted to pursue.

“During my first co-op, I was performing site visits and helping produce hazardous waste categorizations to advise on-site classifications and disposal procedures, and during my second co-op, there were a lot of policies and rules that had to be followed for drinking water treatment to ensure human health,” Andrews says.

Having recognized a clear connection between engineering and public policy, she decided to pursue this PlusOne to delve further into policy determinations and their impact on engineered products.

Alongside her PlusOne, Andrews has also accepted a full-time water resource engineering position at Kleinfelder. As for advice she can offer for incoming engineering students, Andrews says that while her global co-op seemed like a daunting commitment at first, the process taught her that unique opportunities are well worth the effort.

“Anything worth having is worth working for,” she says.

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering