For 748 million people across the globe, the struggle to access clean water presents an everyday challenge, according to UNICEF. Samantha Martinez, a junior majoring in civil engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, is taking steps toward reducing that number.
“I care about water treatment because with access to clean drinking water and sanitation, communities have greater opportunities to focus their efforts onto other needs, such as education,” Martinez says.
Born in Mexico and raised in Pflugerville, Martinez always knew she wanted to help people. Upon arriving at the Forty Acres, she decided that a great way to do so was to pursue a career in civil engineering, where she could focus on water treatment.
“Engineering is everything in my opinion,” Martinez says. “It is about identifying an issue and solving it through teamwork and innovation. Water treatment is a way to use engineering and improve people’s overall quality of life.”
To explore this career path, Martinez enrolled in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Pre-Graduate School Internship. This opportunity allowed her to collaborate on graduate level research and co-teach a water treatment workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Clubes de Ciencia initiative.
“I gained a lot from the experience, such as developing a bond with our class and seeing them progress with the material,” Martinez says. “I appreciate having met amazing and motived scholars, and I see a future in which we can help each other accomplish our personal goals and solve the global issues we are passionate about.”
During her IE experience, Martinez realized that effectively expanding water treatment in Mexico is dependent on more than an undergraduate degree in engineering.
“I was finding civil engineering to be rather technical and it was becoming hard for me to connect it to direct change in society,” Martinez says. “Since water treatment is mostly regulated and funded by the government, a master’s degree in environmental engineering and public policy would really help me achieve my goals.”
Martinez is now certain that she wants to attend graduate school and obtain a degree in public policy. She is confident that this will complement her engineering background and help her research and execute processes that bring clean water treatment to disadvantaged communities.
“I have goals to help with water treatment worldwide, starting with the state of Oaxaca,” Martinez says. “I see myself fighting for what water is – a necessity that should be available to everyone.”