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Picking your major is a tough choice, especially at Viterbi where every major offered has new resources, new challenges, and new solutions for you to explore! However, I’m going to plug my major, environmental engineering (hereafter referred to as ENE), and give you 4 reasons why it’s one of the most unique majors at USC!

1. Classes and Content

The ENE classes here at USC are amazing: the content delves deep into so many disciplines within ENE, and every semester brings new ideas and resources to you! While the ENE major is definitely packed full of units, the classes they have us take are important not only in regards to our next semester’s workload, but also out in the field. An example of this is CE363 Water Chemistry and Analysis taught by Professor Kandis Leslie Abdul-Aziz. In our lab section, we recently focused on chemical oxygen demand, turbidity, and other water treatment regulations. Just this past Wednesday, we took a field trip to the Hyperion wastewater treatment facility, and the senior chemists and engineers there were conducting chemical oxygen demand and turbidity tests! The ENE major gives you applicable skills and examples of where those can be applied in fun and interesting ways. Below is a picture of the view of Dockweiler Beach from the Hyperion treatment plant!

2. Student Body

The student body of ENE is one of a kind. The major is pretty small each year: I think I have about 25 students in my graduating class. However, this leads to a tight-knit cohort of ENE majors each year. We rely on each other, know all of each other’s names, study together, and have all our classes together. This also makes our class sizes really small: ENE classes are always under 30 and civil engineering classes are usually under 45.

3. Faculty

The ENE faculty are beyond amazing. While the department is small, the professors all offer each of us so much in our classes and outside. I would recommend going on the ENE website and taking a look at all the amazing faculty this school has to offer! Some of my favorite classes have been made even better by understanding, passionate, knowledgeable professors who care about the same issues we do. Professor Kelly Sanders’ ENE215 Energy Systems and Environmental Impacts class comes to mind: she taught me so much about the environment and the ways our energy usage and systems impact it. Honestly, her class changed my life and I think about those connections every time I use any form of energy.  

4. General Vibes

All of us chose our major for similar reasons: we want to save the Earth, adapt to climate change, mitigate its impacts, and protect what we have left. This is a powerful ethos of our major, and is exemplified by the students and faculty’s passion for environmentalism. We all care so much about what we do, and it’s really evident. I work in Professor Dan McCurry’s research lab, and there as well I can see the ways our passion for helping others, specifically in wastewater reuse as a form of drinking water, emerges in our work.

Because of these reasons in particular, I love my major and choose to stay in my major. This is not an exhaustive list: I can’t put all of the amazing experiences, resources, study sessions, classes, and more on this list. But I hope that this can convince you in some capacity that ENE at USC is a unique major with unique resources, and if you are passionate about environmentalism and climate change, this is the place for you!

Vidya Iyer

MAJOR: Environmental Engineering YEAR: Class of 2025 HOMETOWN: Des Moines, Iowa PRONOUNS: they/them/theirs Outside of VSA, I am a co-Lead Organizer for Student Coalition for Asian Pacific Empowerment, volunteer at the LGBTQ+ student center, and I participate in activism across USC and LA! I'm looking to get into research this year as well, hopefully in water quality or CO2 recycling.