Peggy Layne
Ms. Peggy Layne
Assistant Provost for Faculty Development, Virginia Tech

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  • Describe what you do in your current work situation.
    I currently run a program to increase the number and success of women faculty in science and engineering. After working as an environmental engineer doing water and wastewater treatment plant design and hazardous waste cleanup work for seventeen years, I decided to work full time on increasing the participation of women and minorities in engineering, first at the National Academy of Engineering and now at Virginia Tech. I work with current deans, department heads, and faculty members to recruit more female faculty to the university and design and implement programs for current women faculty to support their career development. I also promote university policies that help both male and female faculty members to be successful in both their careers and their personal lives.
  • Why did you choose engineering?
    I chose engineering because, growing up in the 1970s, I was very concerned about protecting the environment from pollution. I decided to become an engineer so that I could design systems to clean up waste and to produce less waste in the first place.
  • Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    I have a bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University, a medium sized private university in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt was very progressive in recruiting female engineering students in the 1970s, and had a strong undergraduate program in environmental engineering. I have a master's degree from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill. The environmental engineering program there is only at the graduate level, and is the only engineering program on the Chapel Hill campus, so both of my degrees are from somewhat non-traditional engineering programs. At both schools I enjoyed the small classes and close interaction with the professors that smaller programs allow.
  • What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    I worked for several different consulting firms while I was doing environmental engineering, from a 200 person company to a 20,000 person company. At first I worked on small parts of big projects related to developing oil and gas from coal. Later I worked on the design of municipal water and wastewater treatment plants, then investigating old hazardous waste disposal sites and evaluating the damage they caused to human health and the environment. After I completed my master's degree and obtained my professional engineering license, I moved into a project management role, planning work and directing teams of engineers and scientists to complete the project. I've spent a lot of time writing plans and reports and making presentations to clients and regulatory agencies. Now I organize and manage different types of projects.
  • What do you like best about being an engineer?
    I enjoy the variety of engineering work, interacting with smart people from different backgrounds, and knowing that the projects I work on are good for people and the environment.
  • Please tell us a little about your family.
    I recently married a wonderful man who has two grown children and a young grandson. We enjoy taking the grandson to the park.
  • What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    When I was in high school, I attended a nature study camp that encouraged my interest in science and taught me about the problems of pollution and the need for action to clean up and protect the environment. That experience drove my desire to work in pollution control and environmental cleanup. After I started my career and got involved in the Society of Women Engineers, the wonderful women I met there encouraged me to take on more responsibilities and to reach out to help younger women learn about and succeed in engineering careers.
  • What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    I would encourage young women considering a career in engineering to try to meet some engineers, and check out the book "Changing Our World:True Stories of Women Engineers"
  • Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    My hobbies include singing in a local community chorus, sailing with my husband, and learning to cook local vegetables. I work out at the gym and volunteer at the nature study camp I attended as a teenager.
Peggy Layne, P.E., joined Virginia Tech in 2003 as director of the AdvanceVT program, a National Science Foundation sponsored program to increase the number and success of women faculty in science and engineering. She is currently the Director of AdvanceVT and Faculty Projects in the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost. Prior to accepting her current position, Ms. Layne worked as a diversity consultant for the American Association of Engineering Societies and as director of the program on diversity in the engineering workforce at the National Academy of Engineering. She also spent a year as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the office of Senator Bob Graham, where she was responsible for water, wastewater, and solid and hazardous waste policy issues. Ms. Layne has degrees in environmental and water resources engineering from Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. She spent 17 years as a consulting engineer with several firms, and was formerly a principal at Harding Lawson Associates in Tallahassee, FL, where she managed the office and directed hazardous waste site investigation and cleanup projects. Ms. Layne is an active member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a registered professional engineer. She served as president of the Society of Women Engineers in 1996-97 and FY11 Chair of SWE’s Government Relations and Public Policy Committee.
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Latest Questions
  • Kaci, Louisiana asked Peggy Layne, Virginia Tech

    Added Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 8:16 PM

    I am considering enviro. engineering. I want something that is versatile and does not limit me to a small amount of job opportunities. My first question is to work with some of the same things as an enviro engineer, is an BS environmental engineering degree really required? Also, if not, what degree options would I have to still be able to work with environmental issues ? If not, should I get a chemical engineering degree and then opt to work with environmental stuff, or would that be stooping ...
    Related to Choosing a Degree, Environmental, Internships & Jobs
    Answers 1
    Peggy Layne, Virginia Tech
    Answered Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 8:16 PM
    Hi Kaci,
    Environmental engineers can work for government agencies, consulting firms, or industrial corporations, so there are a variety of job opportunities out there. You don't need to have an undergraduate major in environmental engineering. Many ...
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  • Jessica

    Added Monday, April 18, 2016 at 10:28 AM

    Hey, I'm Jessica, I'm a junior in high school and I have been looking into environmental engineering as a choice to major in at college but I'm not sure what exactly it's all about or if it'd be the right job for me. I'm really interesting in farming, outdoors, gardening and things a little more on the agricultural side, but I don't know of any good paying jobs that aren't declining in growth.. my dad and some teachers suggested environmental engineering, so is there a certain type of ...
    Answers 1
    Peggy Layne, Virginia Tech
    Answered Monday, April 18, 2016 at 10:28 AM
    At Virginia Tech we have a program called Biological Systems Engineering that combines many of your interests. That program offers a focus on water resources, preparing students to manage wastes from agriculture operations as well as industrial and ...
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  • Candice, Little Rock, Arkansas

    Added Monday, February 22, 2016 at 4:12 PM

    Hello, my name is Candice and I am attending the university of Little Rock Arkansas. I would love to be a environmental Engineer. My question is whenever going to a site what are the questions that run though your head? What do you ask yourself?
    Answers 1
    Peggy Layne, Virginia Tech
    Answered Monday, February 22, 2016 at 4:12 PM
    Hi Candice,
    Environmental engineers work at a variety of different kinds of sites, so I'm not sure exactly what you are asking. I'll answer based on the kind of work I used to do investigating hazardous waste disposal sites. We worked on military ...
    Read More
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