Valpo Engineering Student Engages in Environmental Remediation in France

Christine Umerley ’17
Christine Umerley ’17

It has been a year full of both challenges and growth for Christine Umerley ’17, whose involvement in Valparaiso University’s International Engineering Program (VIEP) took her to France in August 2015. Christine is a civil engineering major, French minor, and member of Christ College, the university’s liberal arts honors college.

The VIEP-French program includes a one-semester Study Abroad program in Compiègne, France, followed by an internship with an engineering company in France the next semester and ensuing summer. During this past fall, Christine took courses at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne in French, art, renewable energy, and urbanism.

In February, she began a cooperative education placement with AECOM, which will extend through mid-July. At AECOM, she is immersed in a large-scale environmental remediation project in the northern France town of Petit-Couronne. Here, from 1985 to 1990, there was a sizeable refined fuel leak, which resulted in substantial contamination of the surrounding soil, groundwater, and air.

While remediation work has reduced the plume of non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPL) that exist mainly between the soil/groundwater interface considerably, not all NAPL are recoverable. However, the non-recoverable NAPL will naturally degrade over time. The focus of Christine’s research is to measure the rate of the natural degradation to determine the time necessary to reach close-out levels. This undertaking is further complicated as the site is near the Seine River, bringing tidal patterns and groundwater flow changes into play.

As AECOM is a global company, Christine has the opportunity to work with colleagues in Paris as well as an entire network of consultants and specialists. Christine recognizes the impact of this global experience in stating, “Our world is made up of cultures that can sometimes seem insurmountably different, but there’s a lot we can learn from each other if we seek to make those connections in peace.”

While Christine has fully embraced Paris and continues to gain knowledge and cultural awareness, she looks forward to returning to her Valpo family.

“My time away has made it apparent to me just how special the Valpo community is, with professors who truly inspire students to achieve excellence as well as service to others.”

Recognizing the importance of multicultural experience, the College of Engineering has established international engineering programs in France, Germany, Spain, and China.