As a civil engineer by trade, Sarah Sanchez believes technology can be used to improve life by minimizing risks and undesirable impacts. She enrolled in Northeastern’s new Master of Science in Engineering and Public Policy (MSEPP) to explore this interface of technology and society.
“In our recent political climate, we’ve been seeing more and more the effects of the decisions that we make in terms of policy, and there are a lot that are social based, but there are also a lot that are science and engineering based,” said Sanchez, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Environmental Science from Northeastern.
Launched in fall 2016, MSEPP is a joint program of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and provides the knowledge and tools needed to extend traditional engineering analysis to public policy and decision-making. The degree offers two concentrations—Infrastructure Resilience, and Energy and Environment—and covers the core skills necessary to link engineering design and analysis research with the economic and policy contexts needed for decisions that affect society at large.
“For many years, industry partners have been asking for professional preparation to understand public policy context, to understand the legal framework within which all of the engineering and design takes place, and so this program is a way to answer those calls,” said Matthew Eckelman, director of the energy and environment concentration.
It was this desire to understand how engineering and environmental policy are connected that led Sanchez to Eckelman’s “CIVE 7272 – Air Quality Management” course, where she learned engineering theory and practice related to air resources management. The course, she said, covered the engineering side of air pollution and the effects of air pollution worldwide.
“I remember being so shocked by how large of a problem it is,” Sanchez said. “The magnitude of the problem worldwide and across the U.S. is really staggering.”
Since then, she has been working with Eckelman on a research project at the intersection of lifecycle analysis and health care issues. They’re using lifecycle analysis to compare disposable and reusable blood pressure cuffs.
Next, Sanchez wants to complete a co-op that allows her to apply the thinking process and problem-solving skills she has acquired as an engineer to address pressing public policy issues.
To learn more about the program, visit the MSEPP website.