Nature and water have always been close to the heart of Rachel Schwaab, ENG ’15. Growing up, she and her family would hike and explore, swim and fish. She turned that love for the outdoors into a career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where she works to keep the environment clean and safe for others to enjoy.
As a high school student, a knack for math, science and solving problems steered Schwaab toward an interest in engineering for her college major. At the same time, she was also a strong lacrosse player for her school’s team and wanted to continue with the sport. These two passions led her to consider Temple. When she received an offer to play on the Temple women’s lacrosse team, Schwaab was sold.
At Temple’s College of Engineering, two professors, Robert Ryan and Erica McKenzie, guided her toward stormwater engineering. The culmination of Schwaab’s studies and budding expertise was her collaborative senior design project. She learned Storm Water Management Model software to help her team redesign the parking lot at Temple’s Ambler Campus to reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality. Familiarity with the modeling software would turn out to be instrumental in securing future internships and jobs.
Schwaab completed her undergraduate studies in just three and half years, and started taking graduate classes that spring so she could finish her Temple lacrosse career as one of the team’s captains.
It’s a decision she doesn't regret: “As one of the captains of the lacrosse team, I worked with teammates with different personalities and from different backgrounds. I learned a lot about when to push people and when to step back and be more supportive, and I think that definitely benefited me.”
Following graduation, she began working for the Virginia Beach-based office of international consulting firm WSP USA as a water resources engineer, where she continued to hone her design and modeling skills on coastal infrastructure and utility projects. From there, she joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which attracted her with its large-scale projects.
In July of 2019, Schwaab moved to Germany to work on an Army base as an environmental engineer. Her days are filled with infrastructure projects and compliance work, including the environmental issue of PFAS remediation, the complex cleanup of toxic man-made substances in oil and water-repellent materials. She is currently taking online classes at Temple toward her master’s degree in engineering management, which she expects to complete next spring.
Eventually, she hopes to move to a coastal area in the U.S. to work on adaptive shoreline management in response to sea-level rise.
“I’m passionate about nature-based solutions,” she said. “It’s really important that we combine the natural with the engineered. That can make solutions 10 times better and hopefully longer term for the future.”
—By Emily Kovach and Cal Setar