US Army Corps of Engineers
BS Agronomy: Crop Science BYU 1995
MS in Soil & Plant Sciences from University of Kentucky
Ph.D in Soil Science from Iowa State University
Where do you work? How long have you worked there? What do you do?
I work at the US Army Engineer Research & Development Center, US Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg MS, and have been there the last two years. I am the leader of the Soil & Sediment Geochemistry Team in ERDC’s Environmental Laboratory. We conduct research with respect to the environmental fate of contaminants in soils and sediments.
How is your profession related to Environmental Science?
We characterize the chemistry by which contaminants interact with environmental solids (soils, sediments) so that site managers, etc. can develop remediation technologies based on this knowledge. At times, we also conduct studies into technologies for remediation based on the chemical information available or what we have characterized ourselves.
What are the most rewarding aspects of managing your career?
TAs part of the US Army Civilian force, our work has immediate and important customers - the US military and the US government. We view our work as directly supporting the warfighter, as well as supporting the vast civil emphases (hurricane aftermaths, etc.) within the Corps. Furthermore, I travel quite extensively, meeting with clients, collaborators, and associates all over the world.
How has your BYU education benefited your career and would you recommend any specific course background for your field?
My BYU education gave me a good start to my further advancements in education. At BYU, I received a minor in Chemistry in addition to my degree in Agronomy, which has served me very well throughout my graduate and professional careers. In my opinion, individuals interested in pursuing a career in environmental science should focus on a strong background in the fundamental sciences (chemistry, physics) in addition to training in soil science. It's the combination of the two that's needed in my field.
What changes do you see or expect in your profession in the near future?
I expect my profession to grow dramatically, especially as environmental professionals recognize the importance of soil chemistry in explaining contaminant behavior. Already, we see individuals in my profession with limited chemical background are rapidly falling behind the required knowledge and skills needed for the modern environmental science field. Also, soil scientists must move to more cutting edge spectroscopies/technologies for direct observation/determination of contaminant behaviors.
There is a common misconception of lumping environmental science with environmental activism. How can our department best address this perception problem with our students and employers?
Radicalizing environmentalism diminishes its importance, sows seeds of mistrust among different entities as it seeks to enforce inflexible rules, and probably is the most significant barrier to organizations making the often painful first steps to becoming more environmentally responsible. In the government circles I move in, I find a strong political will to be environmentally responsible - it's just difficult to balance the environmental concerns with needed uses of government lands, such as for warfighter training pre-deployment to the theatre. Further advancements on the environmental front come by way of fostering a spirit of cooperation with industry and government. Environmental scientists that enable customers to succeed by finding solutions to their problems while minimizing their environmental footprint do much to further the environmental cause.
How can students best network within your profession in order to gain employment or internships? Does your company have internships that may be of interest to our students?
Students should contact the Environmental Laboratory (EL) directly and send their resumes with letters of interest. EL has an aggressive hiring strategy for both internships and permanent positions as part of its business plan to become a world-class research institution.
Does your company have internships that may be of interest to our students? Who should they contact?
Contact Dr. Richard E. Price
CEERD-EP, 3909 Halls Ferry Road
Vicksburg, MS 39180
Would you share a favorite memory of your BYU professors?
When I scored an A on one of Dr. Jolley's tests. The surprise on his face was priceless!