Growing up in four different countries, I had far from an ordinary childhood.

I was born in Austria, living there for eight years until my dad received a job opportunity in the United States and my family moved to Pennsylvania. It was during this time I quickly became fluent in English. After finishing elementary school, we moved back to Europe, first Warsaw, Poland for two years, then Reading, England for one year before settling in Antioch, Illinois, where I attended and graduated high school.

During my senior year of high school, I took AP Environmental Science, which I found super interesting. I've always been aware of rising environmental issues growing up and I figured I should try to study something that will allow me to make a meaningful impact. I really wanted to go out of state for college, and IU Indianapolis was part of the Midwest Exchange Program, offering great scholarship opportunities.

I loved the downtown urban campus at IU Indianapolis, and having lived in smaller towns my entire life, I was really drawn to the busyness and the resources a bigger city and university offered. I also believed studying environmental science in an urban setting would give me a unique academic experience and perspective. Getting accepted into the honors college sealed the deal for me.

Transition to IUI

Because of the way I grew up, moving place-to-place, starting college wasn’t all that daunting to me, but IU Indianapolis definitely made the transition easier. I decided to live in the Honors Residential Based Learning Community (RBLC) at University Tower. It made it easy to make friends with people who had similar interests.

Be the "I" in Indy. At the NDY sculpture near Lucas Oil Stadium.

When classes first started, I was only an environmental science major, but a few months into my freshman seminar, where I took the course Principles of Sustainability, I decided to double major, adding sustainable management and policy degree from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Although the degrees were in two different schools, I felt they complemented each other and provided more of a social and "people" aspect.

Glaciers, Aurora Borealis and more during the National Student Exchange (NSE) trip to Alaska.

Internships and research

Sophomore year is when I landed my first internship, working as a service-learning assistant for the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) on campus, which was exciting because it was my first academic-related opportunity and allowed me to do real-life, hands-on work for the first time. The work involved a lot of team collaboration and leading student groups in environmental stewardship projects, so it supplied leadership, teamwork and the overall experience needed early in college, which eventually helped me land a spot in the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute (MURI) program the following year.

Over the course of the summer, the MURI program was my first full-time work experience, and a great introduction to the type of hard work and commitment that goes into dedicating a 40-hour week to scientific work. It was entirely lab-based, and I learned a ton about different lab procedures, machines, data analysis and much more. Specifically, my lab gathered data from sediment cores from floodplain lakes for Dr. Broxton Bird’s, professor of environmental science, research in paleoclimatology.

Through internships and involvement, both during my undergraduate and after, whether it involved being in a lab or teaching kids outdoors, reaffirmed my passion for working in the environmental space, and to this day I keep an open mind as to what that kind of work looks like.

Petting a therapy dog during finals.

The favorite thing about getting my Environmental Science degree at the School of Science

What I liked most about being an environmental science student at IU Indianapolis is that it was a smaller department, but still offered all the resources and cutting-edge research opportunities of a big department. Besides the core science courses, many of the environmental science courses felt tight-knit and you were never just a “number” in the classroom. I loved all the professors and advisors I had as a student at the School of Science, and always felt like I had qualified and inspiring professionals to look up to.

Starting my career at VHB

Shortly after graduating in the spring of 2022, I was fortunate to earn a six-month, field-based internship at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs, Mississippi with the Scientists in Parks program as a natural resource management assistant.

Besides getting to live in a new climate and ecosystem, I got to learn skills I had never even thought of, many of which related to working in a marine environment, such as boat trailering and tying knots, which threw me a little bit out of my comfort zone. However, achieving new work skills that I did not originally set out to do was a huge confidence builder, both personally and professionally, and reminded me that keeping an open mind to new “versions” of yourself is the key to moving forward in your career.

All of the experience helped me land a full-time position as an environmental scientist in Providence, Rhode Island, at VHB in June 2023. Working on the Site Investigation and Remediation team, we make sure new projects in private, public or transportation sectors comply with environmental regulatory requirements. Some of my responsibilities include sampling and testing groundwater wells, collecting soil samples and writing up environmental reports. Being so fresh to the position, I am still learning a lot every day, and I’m excited to gain a lot of new skills and experiences. I think it’s a valuable next step in my career!