Student Combines Athletics and Engineering
"I have always been interested in water and the ocean," says Salme Cook '09, currently a student in the Ocean Engineering graduate program at Stevens. "I lived near the Chesapeake Bay and spent every summer visiting Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire."
Salme wanted to make sure that these aquatic environments stayed pristine for the plants and wildlife that called them home. Many of her friends felt a similar commitment to protecting the natural world, and were going to attend college to study environmental science. But Salme wanted something more.
"I felt that, as an engineer, I would not just study problems in the environment, but always be looking for solutions," she says. The potential to solve real problems, and play soccer, brought her to Stevens.
After she was scouted by the university's soccer coach at a tournament, Salme learned more about Stevens and discovered that it was exactly what she wanted. Salme achieved success as an athlete—she was the first ever Stevens Track and Field athlete to compete at NCAA Championships—but she considers her greatest reward to be the influence of sports on her engineering career.
"Athletics gave me more than I could have ever hoped for," Salme says. One of those lessons is learning that you can always challenge yourself—whether on the field or in the classroom. "When you are playing soccer you can always push yourself to a higher level." According to Salme, it is the same with engineering. There may be very challenging concepts to tackle in her textbooks, but everything can be understood if she gives it enough practice.
During her time as an undergrad Environmental Engineering major, Salme took advantage of research opportunities at Stevens that helped direct her career path. Although she enjoyed the work, she found that the four walls of an environmental testing laboratory could not contain her interests. A rewarding internship with the Army Corps of Engineers also left her wanting more.
"I like to be out in the field," Salme proclaims. "I want to see trees and hear birds and work in the place that I am helping to protect."
As a student of Dr. Alan Blumberg, Director of the Center for Maritime Systems, Salme gets her hands wet helping to maintain ocean observation and monitoring projects in the Hudson River and throughout the New York Harbor. Dr. Blumberg maintains the New York Harbor Observing and Prediction System (NYHOPS), a sophisticated system that both monitors water conditions in the waters around New York City and provides this information to the public online, for free.
To see the effects of NYHOPS on the New York community excites Salme. She has met sailors that plan outings using the NYHOPS website, and Hudson River swimming enthusiasts that always check tide schedules before diving in. "It is great to know that your work helps others do what they love to do. I think that is what everyone wants out of life." She is continuing to work with Dr. Blumberg to develop new applications for NYHOPS data.
Salme has also applied to the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The year-long Fellowship is a unique experience that places students with an interest in ocean and water resources into federal organizations that influence and direct national policy. She believes that the Fellowship would be an excellent foundation for further research that improves our understanding of the coastal environment.
"There is definitely a Ph.D. in my future," Salme predicts. "When, where, I can't say. Being at Stevens has let me know that you can't plan too far ahead. You never know where your next experience will take you."