With mentorship from CSE, student hopes to make a positive environmental impact

Salomeh Rostami aims to pursue environmental justice and leadership

April 20, 2022

Salomeh Rostami’s first year in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering was harder than she expected. Classes were rigorous, and a Big 10 university can be a daunting place. One of the things that got her through her freshman year was the peer mentor she found through CSE Ambassadors. 

Most know the ambassadors as campus tour guides, but the student group also runs a mentorship program that matches incoming freshmen students to upperclassmen in similar majors who serve as guides during their first year at the University. Now, Rostami is on the CSE Ambassadors leadership team and co-runs the mentorship program. She also has two first-year students with whom she meets on a monthly basis. 

“Being a mentor has been really rewarding and a really good experience,” said Rostami, who received financial support from the University of Minnesota President’s Emerging Scholars program and the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE) Strategic Initiatives Fund.

“I’ve struggled a lot going through CSE, but I’ve also grown a lot through it. So, talking about those struggles and what you’re going through and having someone to relate to about it is great.”

Rostami came to the University of Minnesota because of its proximity to home—and to study environmental engineering.

“I knew I wanted something to do with the environment as a career and major,” said Rostami, who grew up in New Brighton, Minn. “My parents said that STEM would be a good field to go into, so I did some research and found environmental engineering. I was really excited because the U of M has a pretty good program.”

She’s also been able to do research throughout her undergraduate career in CSE Professor Paige Novak’s lab. One of her big projects is a nitrification experiment, where she aims to better understand the effects of dissolved oxygen and temperature on the rate of nitrification, the process in which bacteria oxidize ammonia to form nitrites and nitrates. Her team is hoping to use this information to optimize wastewater treatment ponds for the colder climates of Minnesota.

Rostami is considering eventually going to graduate school for environmental policy or law. But first, she plans to work in the public sector after graduation, where she can work on projects like wastewater and stormwater management that have a direct impact on local communities. 

“Environmental justice is becoming more and more important,” Rostami said.

“It’s what a lot of people in the major are leaning towards since environmental issues are getting worse and worse as time goes by. So as I apply for jobs, I’m realizing I want to be out helping people as much as possible.”

Since her major is in CEGE, Rostami got to take a broad range of classes outside her specific major in civil and geo engineering, which means she gained many skills that apply to civil engineering jobs as well.

“It’s nice to have that experience when I'm applying to jobs. I feel very qualified,” she said. “I’m also glad I got to do leadership work in college. I’m hoping one day I could go into project management or something like that, so it’s been a really good experience considering the group work I’ll have to do in an engineering job.”

Story by Olivia Hultgren

If you’d like to support students in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, visit our CSE Giving website.