Hannah Kowalski – 2014

Groundwater sampling in Connecticut

Groundwater sampling in Connecticut

I became interested in geology mostly on a dare.  I was already a hard science student pursuing a bachelors of  Science in Biology, when one of my friends suggested I take a geology class for fun.  I kind of dismissed the idea, and she bet I would get hooked after one class so I agreed to try just one class and I indeed got hooked.  I ended up graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Geology.

I’m currently working at an environmental consulting firm as an environmental geologist.  I spend a good chunk of my time in the field drilling on environmentally impacted sites from small mom and pop shops to brown fields and super fund sites.  The other half of my time I’m writing reports and submitting permits to the local state branch of the EPA or to the EPA itself.

 Surprisingly I had a hard time finding a field that encompassed both the biology and geology fields I was interested in.  I applied to graduate schools because I wasn’t sure what else to do, and didn’t get in.  I graduated without a job and spent a couple months unemployed.  I applied to about 15 jobs a day before I was able to get an in-person courtesy interview due to family connections.  The interview was just suppose to be practice for my benefit but my educational background and in person demeanor really impressed the interviewer and I was offered a job at the company within a week.  In the two years I’ve been here I’ve been promoted once and have received two raises.


A typical work day view. In New York City

I guess the two big takeaways from my experience are: not getting into graduate school, or having a job right out of college isn’t the end of the world, you can still be happy and successful even if you don’t know what you’re doing right out of school.  And two, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to your family, friends, or professors for initial connections.  Your education, background, and personality can all be impressive, but its hard for your achievements to shine through without a foot in the door.

I was over involved in college.  I was working anywhere from 2 to 5 part time campus jobs, I was involved in 3 of the music programs, a couple casual sports teams and a ridiculous amount of clubs.  I loved that I could do all that, and it taught me how to manage my time and handle stressful situations (even if they were self made).


Working on a Barge in New York City collecting sediment cores

Since graduating I’ve calmed down a lot on my out of work activities.  I loved being involved but I also recognized that dividing you attention among so many projects makes my work suffer.  Its the classical quantity vs quality issue.  I feel like having that experience in college helps when I’m juggling multiple projects and clients at the same time, but it also makes me appreciate my down time even more.

 The day I realized I could graduate with a dual degree was probably the most transformative.  I had a couple AP credits from high school and took classes over interim period and over the summer but i would need to double up my entire senior year and get permission from both departments.  I was so excited to do both I was tripping over my feet to get everything approved.  I ended up buckling down and improving my time management skills, which is an incredibly helpful skill in the working world, and I got the honor of graduating in four years with two degrees, which was a great resume booster.

 If you’re looking specifically at environmental geology nothing can help you more than soils and sediment or hydrology classes.  Any class that gets you out in the world is good too, but 90% of the time I’m classifying soils and materials above bedrock and monitoring groundwater flow.

 No matter what you want to do after college you can always change your mind.  You don’t have to stick with the same graduate school, or job, or future plan.  In all likely hood you will be graduating college at the age of 21, and even though it feels like it, you don’t need to know the next 50 years of your life by the time you get handed your diploma.

Collecting surface water samples in Connecticut

Collecting surface water samples in Connecticut

This link is where I work.