Elisabeth Cianciola '10

JOB TITLE: Aquatic scientist
ORGANIZATION: Charles River Watershed Association
LOCATION: Weston, Massachusetts
GRADUATE DEGREE: M.S., natural resources, University of New Hampshire

What was your first position after college? My first position after college was working as an analyst for The Cadmus Group, Inc. I now have a master’s degree in natural resources from the University of New Hampshire and work as the aquatic scientist for the Charles River Watershed Association in Weston, Massachusetts.

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? Most of my colleagues at The Cadmus Group also had liberal arts backgrounds. This made us well suited to our jobs because we all enjoyed exploring multiple solutions to the environmental issues we confronted and considering their human elements. The teams we assembled to work on projects were all interdisciplinary, and it was expected that anyone in the company could fill one of several roles on a given project. 

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? Having research experience from all four years of my undergraduate education, writing an honors thesis, presenting research at a conference, and publishing a paper as an undergraduate all made me an attractive candidate for graduate programs. I also volunteered with Green Campus and ConnPIRG (the environmental arm of ConnPIRG is now known as Environment America) as an undergraduate, and both experiences exposed me to important concepts and career paths. 

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? There are a lot of different career paths in environmental science, so the more activities, courses, and internships that students try, the better off they’ll be trying out a job when they graduate. I highly recommend that students in environmental science take a course in GIS (geographic information systems), which I used a lot in my first job. To be successful in a postgraduate program in the sciences, I’d recommend students work on a research project with a professor over the summer or in an independent study during the semester, attend an academic or professional conference in the field, serve as a teaching assistant in the department, and write a senior thesis. 

What is the biggest misconception about your field? Students often mistakenly think that if they study environmental science, they will get to work outdoors. The truth is that most of an environmental scientist’s career is spent planning research projects or analyzing and modeling data, all of which take place indoors! Another big misconception is that graduate school is more years of the same routine as college. However, the focus shifts from learning facts and ideas to learning to manage research projects, a thesis committee, and a classroom of undergraduate students.