Summary of discussion panel on “Ideas for developing and improving the human capital potential in India for environmental science and engineering research”
The workgroup discussion was centered around the aim of increasing undergraduate enrollment in Environmental Science and Engineering and developing interest among students in pursuing careers in the field. Several ideas were discussed that could lead to effective communication to students as well as the general population of the importance of the field in society.
Dr. Luthy suggested that IITB and other research universities should develop their vision for a sustainable future, with clearly defined goals. He further elaborated that it is essential for students to be aware of the vision and how different career choices and specialization in environmental science/engineering can help realize that vision. Universities need to develop a framework for providing students with this valuable information.
Undergraduate students typically pick their engineering specialization based on knowledge of the type of career opportunities that they could have, including knowing about companies which typically hire students with a particular specialization, the roles that these companies tend to offer, and the duties and responsibilities associated with these roles. This information is generally not easily available for environmental science/engineering disciplines and universities should work towards developing a knowledge base with this information in order to communicate and attract more undergraduate students towards careers in environment-related disciplines.
It is important to develop outreach programs which provide high school and junior college students a glimpse into the environmental research that is being performed at IITB and other universities. This would be a valuable way of communicating to students the importance of environmental science/engineering and thus encouraging them to consider it as a potential option for their undergraduate education and further careers. Starting internship programs for high school students wherein they could work at a research lab for a few months was also suggested as another crucial pathway for engaging and motivating potential students to consider a career in environmental engineering and science.
Expanding on the above point, another way of disseminating the importance of environmental science/engineering could be through community outreach programs as well as by involving various stakeholders (such as the municipal/state bodies and the local communities) in the decision-making process while seeking solutions to environmental problems. A good example of such engagement was highlighted in Dr. Luthy’s presentation on the Urban Water program at Stanford where stakeholders from the water industry, regulators, and water utilities are involved.