One such dilemma is the cultural difference between growing up in a Hispanic family who places emphasis on collective family support, compared to the very individualistic nature of academia. She said, “I have learned to balance the two, but I imagine this may be a factor that many graduate students in my position and from a similar background struggle with.”
Yet, her family is also a source of inspiration. Born in Venezuela, much of Campesino’s family who still lives in the South American country experience water insecurity. Combined with an engaging experience in her high school environmental sciences class, she went on to pursue environmental engineering. In 2018, Campesino earned her Bachelor of Science and, in 2020, completed her Master of Science at the University of Central Florida. She expects to earn her doctorate in environmental engineering next May from the same university.
Paula Campesino handling water samples in Sarasota, Florida.
Prior to completing her undergraduate studies, Campesino joined Dr. Steven Duranceau’s Water Quality Engineering Research Group based at the University of Central Florida and continues to work with the team as a doctoral student. Dr. Duranceau wrote in his letter of recommendation, “As Paula’s research advisor, I can attest that she has been able to conduct research that provides practical engineering solutions that resolve issues affecting the water community. Additionally, Paula has such good leadership skills that I have placed her as the senior graduate student in-charge of training, scheduling, and monitoring the progress of our undergraduate researchers in our research group.”
During her studies, Campesino has been involved in several water quality projects. She participated in a water quality study to evaluate the disinfection by-product formation potential of one of Maui’s surface water sources, which feeds several water treatment plants. She continues to work with the Floridian city of Sarasota on a Lead and Copper Study, evaluating the water distribution system by analyzing pilot-scale corrosion using linear polarization resistance measurements and metal coupons to determine if phosphate-based corrosion inhibitors decrease corrosion rates.
Bill Riebe, Sarasota Utilities Director, wrote in his recommendation letter, “Her work will help us identify compatible corrosion control inhibitors focused on not only current treatment, but also a method to examine compatibility for future treatment blends. She has played an instrumental role in the continued success of this project and shown a dedication to providing technical knowledge, continued communication, and good relations with our city staff.”
“Paula exhibits strong leadership skills overseeing undergraduate student studies and serving as a liaison for incoming graduate students as well,” said Woodard & Curran Project Manager Srivalli Sukuru. In reviewing her scholarship application, Sukuru noted Campesino’s passion for small water utilities and her engagement in ongoing projects such as the Lead and Copper Study in Sarasota.
Much of Campesino’s experience has focused largely on the quality and operations of small-scale water systems. After her doctorate program, she hopes to continue working with smaller systems, having a big impact on utilities that may not have the resources necessary for major upgrades.
“Source water scarcity is becoming a larger concern, especially in more arid regions in this country and across the world,” said Campesino. “But smaller utilities are left with fewer resources and worse water quality. I’m motivated to try and improve systems as a future engineer to many locations across the world where source water and treatment options are scarce.”