Outstanding Graduate, Spring 2022
Smith Pittman says desert sunshine enticed her to attend Arizona State University. But the reputation of the environmental engineering program and the opportunity to get hands-on experience in research labs were what it really took for her to move across the country to earn a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the seven schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
“Environmental engineering is really important because its goal is to make sure things like our waste don’t cause us harm,” Pittman says. “It is really important to understand the social impacts of the work you do.”
A highlight of her academic career, Pittman says, was participating in the Grand Challenges Scholars Program and receiving grant funding for her research. With the guidance of Regents Professor Bruce Rittman and Assistant Research Scientist Michelle Young, Pittman was able to research whether the addition of lignocellulose pretreatment by microbes can recover valuable products from anaerobic digestion at wastewater facilities. She went on to present this research at the FURI Symposium in Spring 2021.
“I think students should get involved in undergraduate research because it helps you to understand the application of what you are learning in your classes,” Pittman says.
In addition to her research work, she was selected as a Presidential Scholarship recipient, which is awarded by the ASU Foundation to students who show evidence of academic success and a strong commitment to community service or university involvement. Pittman demonstrated this commitment through her semester-long internship with the Prison Education Program and service projects in the community.
“My long-term career aspiration is to fundamentally change our waste collection systems so that we can utilize waste as a continually produced resource,” Pittman says.
She plans to do that by continuing her education and research at Colorado State University, where she will be pursuing her doctorate in mechanical engineering starting in Fall 2022.