Testing the Waters: Civil Engineering Student Aims to Tackle World’s Next Big Crisis
Morgan DiCarlo ’16, is dreaming big. One of Stony Brook’s first civil engineering majors and a fan of buildings, bridges and other enormous structures since childhood, Morgan wants to earn a degree that will allow her to help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental problems.
“I think engineering is the best way to make a change in the world,” says Morgan, who is from Thiells, New York, and a member of Stony Brook’s WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) program. “Maybe subtly, maybe not everyone knows your name, but as an engineer you can be the person behind that bridge that someone uses every single day to get to work.”
Her top interests are coastal engineering — protecting our coastlines from superstorms like Sandy — and management of water resources through providing potable water to populations, handling waste management and providing clean energy.
“There’s a limited access to clean, potable water all over the world right now,” explains Morgan, who interned with the Suffolk County Water Authority last summer, a placement she found through Stony Brook’s Career Center. “I think a big crisis of this generation is going to be finding ways to meet the growing need for water and innovating new filtration and new ways of desalination, sewage disposal and coastal preservation. Water is the next thing we’re going to be fighting wars over, the way we’re fighting over oil now.”
During the summer Morgan also worked with the director and faculty of WISE to develop a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum for civil engineering that will be utilized with WISE’s middle and high school programs. WISE already has programs that allow girls from underrepresented schools to do science and engineering projects at Stony Brook during the school year.
“This summer involved a lot of development and testing,” says Morgan. “One of the projects used straws and tape to build structures and test them. The nice thing about civil engineering is that it’s hands-on.”
Next summer the pilot program will run as a two-week camp, with Morgan as coordinator.
Morgan was recently named one of five finalists in the Advancing Aspirations Global Scholarship contest, a national competition through Discover Bank. The topic was the continued gender gap in STEM disciplines, and Morgan provided a research-based analysis of the factors that keep women and girls from pursuing STEM-related careers and suggested ways to retain and encourage them.
“When I saw what the topic was, I said, ‘I can talk about that for a couple days.’ ”
The winner will be announced in November at the Global Women’s Initiative Conference, where Morgan will have an opportunity to meet and mingle with some of the world’s most accomplished women scientists.
As one of the University’s first civil engineering students, Morgan had a unique opportunity to help shape activities for her cohort. Working with program director Harold Walker, PhD, she founded the Stony Brook chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“The chapter will bring professionals to campus and get students connected and learning about the major and the applications of it to the real world,” she says. “At the next meeting, someone from a pavement company will come in and talk about summer internships.”
Morgan plans to continue on for her graduate degree after Stony Brook and work as an environmental engineer.
“Being part of WISE has definitely solidified this for me,” she says. “It can be hard to become engaged in something that it seems boys just flock to. People don’t expect you to be as good as you can be. Potable water and coastal engineering are going to be huge issues in the next 20 years, and I want to be prepared to do something about them.”
By Toby Speed; photos by John Griffin