Sustaining Awareness

Dyanna Becker (E'11)

Maybe it was growing up in the clear Colorado sunshine, or her spectacular view of the Rockies, but Dyanna Becker's (E'11) environmental interest was sparked early — in her middle school science class. After arriving at Carnegie Mellon in 2007, that spark grew into a passion.

"The more time I spent learning about environmental issues, the more I decided it was something I needed to be committed to," Becker said.

The civil and environmental engineering major was awarded a 2009 Udall Scholarship, given to undergraduates who have demonstrated a commitment to environmental or natural resource issues.

It's easy to see why. Becker is currently the president of Sustainable Earth, on the executive board of Engineers without Borders, co-planner for last year's and next year's The Environment Today weekend course, and started a campaign to reduce bottled water consumption on campus.

As a sophomore, Becker was a member of fellow engineer Anna Lenhart's (E'11) research team. The team received a SURG — small undergraduate research grant — toward studying the feasibility of using the native jatropha plant as a biofuel in East African towns. Villagers are currently forced to search for wood or use expensive petrol for their heat and light.

"There are so many student clubs at Carnegie Mellon focused on sustainability issues — and tons of professors in my department doing related research," said Becker. "It's definitely easy to get involved here."

After graduation, Becker hopes use the engineering skills she learned at Carnegie Mellon to preserve and restore the environment and improve living conditions for people worldwide. Becker believes Carnegie Mellon is helping her reach her goals.

"It's the combination of classes and extracurricular opportunities, being able to access funding and people who want to do research with you," she said. "I was able to learn so much from joining clubs where people are all passionate about the same thing and from the classes I'm taking. It's not just undirected passion now. I know not only what I want to do, but why what I'm doing is a good thing."

Undergraduate students interested in a SURG grant for the Spring 2011 semester must apply by Fri., Oct. 22, 2010. Appointments with the director or assistant director of the URO to review proposals should be made no later than Oct. 20, 2010.

Related Links: SURG | College of Engineering | Environment at CMU

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