Outstanding Graduate, Fall 2023
Born and raised in the Valley, Riley Berg chose to attend school at Arizona State University for its great reputation and the unique environmental engineering degree program. Staying local also allowed her to continue her work as an acrobatic gymnastics coach at a nearby gym.
Berg developed a deep appreciation for the environment due to her love for outdoor activities like mountain biking, trail running and hiking. While initially unsure of the specifics of environmental engineering, she was driven by a desire to contribute to the conservation of natural resources.
“Water is the source of life and access to clean water can greatly affect communities,” Berg says. “Environmental engineering covers all aspects of water, including conservation, treatment, remediation and more.”
Following graduation, Berg plans to earn her master’s degree in civil, environmental, and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University as part of the accelerated master’s program. Her academic journey has been marked by an array of experiences as a member of the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, or FURI, working at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and interning at Water Works Engineers.
She marks her internship at Water Works Engineers as a time of great pride. In this position, Berg created a water distribution model for a small town, highlighting its conservation efforts alongside potential reliability concerns. With her research findings, she was able to develop solutions for the town’s water to the town council.
Berg’s proudest achievements include presenting her research on the kinetics and oxygen tolerance of Geobacter lovleyi during reductive dechlorination at the 2023 Spring Symposium for FURI.
“It was found that Geobacter lovleyi had a higher oxygen tolerance than previously expected, and one of the research conditions had faster dechlorination kinetics when compared to previous studies in literature,” Berg says.
Looking ahead, Berg is considering a career in academia, but above all, her priority is to make a difference in her community and improve people’s lives around the world. Engineering, for Berg, is about problem-solving and collaborative efforts. She says that she cherishes the strong support system and friendships she’s found within the Fulton Schools.
“The memories I created during my undergraduate years with my friends and peers will forever remain with me,” Berg says.
As a woman in engineering, Berg says she knows her work will have the ability to inspire and guide the next generation.
“Being a woman in engineering is important because it shows younger girls that we are capable of anything we put our minds to,” Berg says. “I coach a group of girls for 14 hours a week. I don’t take my impact on their lives lightly and hope that I have shown them that they are strong, smart and capable.”
Outside the classroom, Berg has been a dedicated acrobatic gymnastics coach, instilling sportsmanship, teamwork and a strong work ethic in young athletes.
“The kids that I coach love to show me their grades when they do well on an exam or project,” Berg says. “They motivate me to be the best version of myself and a role model. I presented my FURI poster to them last spring, and it’s so rewarding to see these preteens get excited and interested in science and STEM.”