What Water Research Means to Me

What Water Research Means to Me

Do you consider yourself a researcher?

You may not, but I ask you to reconsider this question.

For many of us, our research careers started as children. As a child, I searched for frogs in a nearby creek and read books about prehistoric creatures of the ice age. In high school, my physics teacher challenged my team to create a bridge out of toothpicks that could hold its own weight. And in college, I spent a semester working in a material science lab, shoveling concrete for the Ph.D. students and learning how to polish stone.

Alito as a child on boat with father

But the official start of my research career began in graduate school when I began work on my dissertation. On most days, research meant focusing on delicately sampling wastewater while trying (successfully, most of the time) not to drench myself. It also meant ensuring that my sequencing batch reactors, which used wastewater sludge to treat heavy metal contaminants, didn’t overflow and flood our lab (again, successfully, most of the time). It meant developing a deeper understanding of the effects of contaminants on sensitive water sources and using cutting edge technology, such as transmission electron microscopy, to observe the impacts of those contaminants on ecological communities.

More importantly, however, research meant contributing to the scientific community in a unique and meaningful way and learning how to think critically, substantiate my hypotheses, and communicate my results.

Since joining HDR after graduate school, those core components haven’t changed for me. Every day I participate in research. My research may focus on water, but I’d bet my observations about research translate into your own field. For instance, the water research I’ve done through our Water Institute means that we can adapt to emerging water quality issues and face them headfirst with innovative solutions. It means that we proactively seek novel technologies and apply them effectively without losing our familiarity of tried and true processes. And it means listening first and developing a plan forward to discuss our ideas and reliably validate them.

Ultimately, I see how research fuels our company’s desire to find optimal solutions to industry challenges. Whether we are working on conceptual planning, a design project, or program management, research is an integrated part of our service delivery and essential for providing the ideal outcome. It helps us identify answers to the complex and novel questions facing our industry and our clients on a daily basis.

So what does research mean to me? It means being excited about the pioneering work we do with the support of a company that values research as much as I do.

Christina Alito
One Water Institute Lead