Cecily Varvitsotis wants to be a hydrologist and, eventually, to design water systems. She has traveled abroad to help bring clean water to those in need. Here is what she said in an interview.
What is your major? Why did you choose this major? I am a natural resources and the environment (NRE) major. I have always like science and actually started as a biology major. However, the major was not as hands-on as I wanted, and there were not as many opportunities for field experience. After I took environmental conservation with Jason Vokoun, an associate professor in NRE, I decided to switch to NRE. The major has great fieldwork opportunities, and I am able to work individually with professors and make personal connections with them.
Name two or three activities, internships or jobs that have enriched your studies. I am president of the Soil and Water Conservation Society. The club was somewhat inactive when I became president, but I worked to make it thrive. I made many close friends in the club. We go on hikes every other weekend and do trail maintenance in the UConn Forest. We also have a booth at Cornucopia Fest and Earth Day Spring Fling. Last year we did research on soil compaction at UConn and presented it at the CT Conference on Natural Resources. One fun activity we do on campus is painting with soil. We take soil from around UConn, grind it and use it as pigment. We then use water and clear acrylic to make paint out of the soil. This event was held on April 22nd.
I am part of the UConn Global Water Brigades, which went on a trip to Honduras over spring break. We helped to implement a clean water system. We dug trenches and laid pipe in 100 degree weather. Because the people of Junquillo have to walk miles to get clean water, they were very grateful for our efforts.
Over the summer, I had a research assistant job with Gary Robbins, a geology professor. I worked on a piezometric monitoring system for the Plant Science Research Farm. The system is for irrigation monitoring. We measured groundwater levels to find out how much water the farm was using.
Which one of these endeavors was the most memorable? Why? Traveling to Honduras was the most memorable experience. It was life changing and the reason why I want to be a hydrologist. Wherever you go in America, clean water is never a concern. In Honduras, water was a big concern. We could only drink bottled water. When I came back I saw how privileged we are in America, and I became so much more mindful.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? The groundwater hydrology class I took with Dr. Robbins was the biggest challenge in my UConn career. I had to work really hard, but I learned so much. The course was basically my life that semester. I put in the effort, and I think the professor recognized that. I learned that no matter what grade I got I was learning something.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May. I want to be a hydrologist working for an environmental consulting company. I want to identify contaminate sources and remediate contaminate areas. Because I like doing projects and solving problems, this is a great fit for me. I want to work in New England at first and then eventually do non-profit work abroad. I would like to design water systems once I become a certified hydrologist.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I love music and playing guitar. I also love nature and enjoy hiking and kayaking.