Bhumi Tandel, recipient of the Huitt-Zollars Scholarship, hopes to help improve the environment through engineering. Photo: Bhumi Tandel

Scholarship Recipient’s Quest for Sustainability

A fourth-year civil and environmental engineering major specializing in hydrology and water resources, Bhumi Tandel is passionate about the environment and sustainability.

“My ultimate goal – throughout my education, career and personal interests – has always been to encourage sustainable change on a local scale before gaining enough experience and expertise to enforce bigger changes on a national or even global scale,” Tandel says.

She works toward local change on campus as the sustainability and community service chair for the Arroyo Vista Student Council and through her involvement with UCI Solar Airplane – an independent project aiming to design a sustainable, low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle using solar panels. Tandel works on the main body of the UAV with the fuselage team.

Late this spring, she began conducting research with Saewung Kim, UCI associate professor of Earth system science, tracking carbon dioxide emissions from various facilities in South Korea, including steel factories and coal power plants.

“One of our goals is to analyze the data we have and compare it to the annual reports these companies are putting out,” Tandel says. “Basically, [we’re] just focusing on CO2 emissions – how accurate they are, their applications, how [they can be] improved and how necessary they are.”

She admits that her work with Kim differs from her studies in civil and environmental engineering but says she finds the sustainability aspect of the research extremely important and intriguing.

“Receiving recognition within my own field is very rewarding, especially now that I have a plan for my educational and career goals.”

For this academic year, Tandel was awarded a Huitt-Zollars Scholarship, which helps support exceptional undergraduates in civil engineering. “Receiving recognition within my own field is very rewarding, especially now that I have a plan for my educational and career goals,” she says.

Hailing from San Jose, Tandel attributes much of her early interest in a STEM career to the engineering courses offered to her during all four years at Branham High School.

While she acknowledges the clear gender imbalance found in a room of engineers, Tandel is not intimidated by the prospect of being a female in a male-dominated field. A member of UCI’s Society of Women Engineers, she sees a lot of progress being made, especially in the field of environmental engineering.

When asked for advice she would give to other women interested in similar fields, Tandel says: “Yes, you will find more men there, but don’t be intimidated by that. They’re not all trying to show you up or prove anything, and at the end of the day, they’re probably just going to end up working with you anyway. So just go for it.”

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