A breath of fresh air

MES in the Community, Hannah Kass

A Penn Alumna Remediates the Region

“I’ve always been curious about the world around me,” shares Elizabeth Madara (Master of Environmental Studies ‘12). “Growing up, my parents had a rule that if the sun was out, so were we.” Today, Elizabeth is a Project Scientist with Roux Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting and management firm. In her role, she explores new frontiers while working with clients to solve their most challenging problems.

“My work is certainly dynamic. Some days, I’m in the field collecting samples. On others, I’m working on industrial or litigation matters. I use the technical, interpersonal, and organizational skills—which I developed in the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program at Penn—every day on the job.”

Elizabeth’s multifaceted Penn education helps her navigate the challenges of the industry. “Emergency responses have been some of the most interesting experiences in my career,” she recalls. “You jump right in assessing how best to approach the situation safely, lead the crews, coordinate with regulatory agencies, collect samples, and work as a team to minimize risk to health, safety and the environment.”

Though a sector of Elizabeth’s work is focused on remediation, she aims to guide her clients with more preventative than reactive measures. “The MES program prepared me very well to adapt to the changing needs of a project and the people involved. Taking a proactive approach has huge cost-saving benefits for companies,” she shares. “I’m there to explain the regulations and highlight the potential outcomes every step of the way.”

Joining the MES program was a natural evolution of Elizabeth’s pursuits. She first came to the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 16 as part of the Young Scholars Program. By the time she matriculated, she had completed two years of Penn’s college curriculum and chose biology as her undergraduate major.  She then submatriculated into the MES program after taking a field course in Yellowstone National Park with Dr. Robert Giegengack and Dr. Yvette Bordeaux. “That course sealed the deal for me,” she remembers.  “You could say I had an environmental epiphany in the wilderness.”

During her time in the MES program, Elizabeth traveled all over the world from the White Mountains in New Hampshire to the World Water Forum in France as part of her studies. She comes from a long line of Penn Alumni—including both of her parents (C’79, C’80/VMD’84) and her two brothers (C’09/VMD/PhD and C’13/MSAG’14). But what embodies the Penn experience for Liz was, and is, the people. “The human side of science and education is what inspired me.”

In her free time, when she’s not working on her MBA or traveling, Elizabeth mentors new MES students and professionals getting their start in the field. “Great mentors and advice helped shape my path, so I’m glad to use my experiences to pay it forward any way I can.”