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Recent graduate Anika Marie Jibben intends to use the skills that she acquired in the applied sciences and engineering minor to make a positive impact on the environment.

Anika Marie Jibben stands in a grassy field wearing a backpack and smiling at the camera. The mountains are seen int the distance.
Anika Marie Jibben recently spent a summer in Montana tracking native plants and species.

Anika Marie Jibben has always felt at home in the outdoors, finding any excuse to ensconce herself among the flora in the Piedmont of North Carolina or the wilds of Montana, but it was within the confines of UNC’s BeAM makerspaces where she began molding a career in environmental engineering.

Her favorite course was “Introduction to Design & Making: Developing Your Personal Design Potential” (APPL 110), because it not only taught her the process of design but that it was okay to fail in that process. During a project that required a laser cutter, she had to design and prototype an “elevated surface”—a wooden extender for desks in lecture halls.

“In the first iteration of my prototype, the legs I designed for the desk didn’t fit properly and looked weird,” said Jibben, who graduated this year with a major in environmental science, a minor in applied sciences and engineering and a second minor in geographic information sciences. “I hadn’t adjusted the design for the kerf, so I fixed that and changed the orientation of the legs, and it ended up working out a lot better. The course taught me that when something doesn’t work out, I can learn from what I did, try again and improve.”

While she doesn’t plan on designing small furniture for a living, she does intend to use the skills that she acquired in the minor to make a positive impact on the environment, which she said is threatened by the overuse of natural resources and a warming climate. The minor, she said, nurtures imaginative problem-solving while equipping students with the practical skills to engineer solutions to environmental problems.

“A lot of people think about energy when they think environmental engineering,” said Jibben, who helped build a prototype of a solar home in high school that stimulated her interest in environmental science. “But I think a large part of it is making sure that homes and other structures are built safe for the environment as well.”

Her plan is to obtain a master’s in environmental engineering, but first she is taking a year off to monitor invasive species and collect native seedlings out West for the Bureau of Land Management and the American Conservation Experience (ACE), a nonprofit dedicated to restoring America’s public lands.

“Understanding the landscape, what happens underneath our feet, and the species that live around us,” she said, “is crucial to the education of an environmental engineer.”

By Dave DeFusco, Department of Applied Physical Sciences

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