Molly Lebowitz

Molly Lebowitz

Business Analyst
Intel Corporation
Molly Lebowitz
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Molly has worked in the environmental field as a consultant engineer, helping industrial clients to comply with environmental regulations and doing preliminary design work on environmental projects. Molly has also run a program to teach engineering and robotics classes for kids in the Seattle area with Play-Well TEKnologies. Currently, Molly is a business analyst at Intel Corporation, guiding the development and execution of internal projects.
Cornell University College of Engineering (2007)
Answers by Molly Lebowitz

Hi Lauren, 
Thanks for writing. It's great that you've gotten some experience and have some good footing to make your next career move. I started as a Bio major as well, and then transferred into env engineering. I'd say school-wise, the difference was math and mechanics (more of that in engineering vs. the natural sciences), and career-wise, I'd say scientists and engineers work hand in hand together all the time and are both equally involved with problem solving. They each simply have some different "tools" in their toolboxes to get the job done.

Before going back to school, I would consider trying your hand at applying for some of the jobs you seek with your current degree and experience. If you can get the job through a lateral career move (no promotion or raise) without another degree, you just saved yourself a lot of time and money! You'd be surprised how flexible employers can be for eager people who are smart and willing to solve problems. That way, you get paid to build your own toolbox, and get even more leverage for your next move. 

Good luck!

Hi Pneuma, 
I'm not sure why your friends are discouraging you! But, regardless of the reason, it's YOUR career, and not theirs, so you should make the decision for yourself. Of course it's good to get input from people who are knowledgeable - for example, talking to people who are working as environmental engineers can give you an accurate picture of what the field is like. I can connect you with those people if you're interested. It may also be good to consult with some of your teachers and professors in the areas you're interested in (probably natural sciences, math and mechanics, based on your desire to be an Env Eng). They might be able to tell you even more paths that may be worthwhile to check out. 

And after all that, if your friends don't support you and your decisions... get some new friends!

Good luck. 

Hi NJ,

This is a question that lots of students struggle with - especially those students who are academically eligible for many extracurricular experiences. There are three types of experiences you would add to a resume (1) part time jobs during the school year, (2) full time summer internships, and (3) involvement in a professional society (like Society of Women Engineers).

First - it's very important to keep in mind that your involvement in any of these activities is more about YOU learning about different professional roles and making connections in your field, rather than just ways to boost your resume. Make sure that you're taking the opportunity during college to try different experiences to help you get a feel for various careers and professional roles.

That being said, there are some hit points that certain employers might be looking for in your resume. (Note: GPA is definitely one of those things, but you asked about experiences specifically, so I'll skip that). You should have an internship at an engineering firm during at least one of your summers. I would also recommend working in a research position at your school during one summer (consider a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates "REU"). Having more significant involvement with one society or professional organization is more meaningful than having cursory involvement with multiple groups. Lastly, denote particular achievements associated with each experience to show that you put energy into your success.

Good luck!

Hello Jill. Thanks for writing! These are all excellent questions to think about.

Your interest in 'going green' is definitely something that relates to Environmental Engineering. But it also could relate to biology, architecture, politics, agriculture, or business! Did I confuse you yet? My point here is that environmental sustainability can be applied in so many ways. What's going to dictate HOW you put that passion to good use is what kind of person you are, and what you like to do. Are you a problem solver and into math and science? If so, engineering might just be the right thing. Are you more of a people person with good energy and wit? You might look into environmental public policy. Do you have an excellent memory and an analytic process driven mind? Perhaps its biology that you would like. Are you an artistic an observant person with an attraction to structures? You could be an architect specializing in Green design.

So, back to Engineering. If you decide engineering is for you, you will need to complete four years of college in an accredited college or university. Your first two years will probably consist of the basic engineering courses that all engineering students take including: three or four types of math, mechanics (static for structures and fluid for water/air), thermodynamics (relating to combustion), heat transfer (about energy transfer within materials). Environmental engineers will also need a good amount of basic Biology and Chemistry (some of this could be done in high school if you take AP classes). You will then get into the specific courses required for the major during your junior and senior years. There will be various offerings that you will be able to choose from, probably including courses on wastewater treatment, environmental remediation, ecological engineering, natural resource management, etc. I would also recommend three additional types of courses which may or may not be required - technical writing, geographic information systems (map making), and some type of computer programming.

Do not worry about gender distribution. It is not a factor that you should make any decisions based on. (If you absolutely want to know, environmental engineering classes will likely have 40 to 50 percent females, while all the other engineering core classes are likely to have more like 20 percent. Honestly, this does not matter an ounce).

Take Care and Good Luck!

Swati, You are in an excellent position to be wondering the things you are wondering right now. Thanks for writing. Ironically, I was in a very similar position when I was a student - initially studied biology... and then found myself in Engineering, specifically environmental engineering. My 2nd year, I, too, felt very bogged down with all the technical general engineering coursework. Not necessarily because it was too difficult, but because I couldn't picture myself actually using any of that in my real life. It didn't relate to what I was truly interested in or passionate about. Keep in mind that your undergraduate degree is kind of like your starting point. It does not at all dictate what you will do - it simply is a statement about what kind of working mind you have. What is going to differentiate you, and capture all of the ideas and subjects that you are genuiniely interested in, is the extra activities and jobs that you do. My advice is to continue with engineering. You are clearly a natural problem solver, and you can think of your diploma as proof to the world that you are a good problem solver. That's kind of what any degree in engineering represents. What will get you into the field that you are interested in is the extra stuff- spring break internships, writing a column for the paper, working extra hours in a biology lab. Use your extra activities to DIVERSIFY what you're doing and flesh out your college experience into something that better represents YOU. Then, when you get out into the working world, you can point to all of that as the basis for your decision, even if it's a little different than what you studied. Keep in mind that you do not have to simply do what everyone else in your major does. If your school allows you to change what type of engineering you are studying, you might consider that as an option. Talk with other students in the Biological or Environmental Engineering departments and see if it sounds like something you might like to try. Chances are, you're taking all the same first and second year basic classes that they are so you could easily switch. However I don't think continuing with your current trajectory would hurt you in any way. You will have time to work in whatever field you choose and use the skills that you already have and you could learn to apply them in a really unique way! Good luck. Molly Lebowitz

Danielle, I know exactly how you're feeling about the stressful math. I will never forget my second semester of sophomore year in college when I took Differential Equations. For someone who always prided themselves on being good at math... I sure was no expert. It was my only bad grade throughout college, and certainly a low point in my college morale. But I dragged myself to office hours directly with the professor, and even though I never feel like I really grasped the subject, I got myself through the final (somehow), and moved on to the next math series, Linear Algebra, which made A LOT more sense to me. Stick with it. You'll get through the courses that really drag, and you'll fly through the ones that are interesting. This will actually give you some hints at what kind of job to, look for when you graduate. Lastly - please know that there are VERY few people in the world who actually use differential equations in their real job. As an environmental engineer, the hardest Math I've had to do on a daily basis is basic algebra, and maybe some statistics. Take care, good luck Molly Lebowitz

Ta'Lisa- Recycling is an excellent way to start thinking about how environmental systems work. What you need to do at this point is just what you're doing: ask lots of questions! Perhaps you could ask to go check out your local recycling center and get a tour. Find out how they separate and sort all the things that people put in their recycling bins, and where they go after that. To actually practice science and engineering at school, you should ask your guidance counselor what extra technical classes your middle school offers. Many schools will allow you to take a technical drawing class or a computer design class instead of traditional art and drawing class. Also, high schools often have technology classes like robotics, or computer programming but many of students don't really even know about these programs. In these kind of classes, you can learn skills that will be helpful if you want to go to school for engineering or science. And don't be afraid by the number of boys in these kinds of classes! I was usually the only girl in technology classes in high school and it was still really fun for me, One last thing you can do is to get into any kind of ecology or nature groups in school. Environmental scientists and engineers need to know alot about ecological systems. If your school does not have a club like this, go to the local community center and find out if they do. Even just a gardening club will teach you some useful things about ecology. Good luck Ta'Lisa! Molly