Impact of Growing Up in Mumbai on Desire to Major in Environmental Science

Kriish poses for an outdoor portrait in front of a tree while wearing a bright orange shirt.

Today, on World Environment Day, we hear from Kriish Hate, a rising senior environmental science major (School of Earth & Environment) and a transfer international student from Mumbai, India. Kriish is here to tell us about his experience within the major.

Can you describe the environmental science program?

“There are both environmental studies and environmental science majors. What is unique about the environmental science program is that we are able to understand the underlying science behind the environment, while combining biology, geology, and other components. We use this technology to better map, restore, assess, and understand ecosystems while focusing on protecting them. This is what sets environmental science apart from environmental studies. Environmental science has an anthropocentric view, but we are studying it from a biocentric view. We look at the organisms from their perspective, and analyze their ecosystems, interactions with humans, and other biological systems in the environment.”

Kriish leaning up against a rock outside

Can you talk about your personal experiences with environmental science?

“I grew up in Mumbai, India, a city which holds about 27 million people. This means there are a lot of jobs and a lot of industry. I grew up experiencing the effects of pollution, and that stayed with me. I would go out with my mom by the marsh, seeing flamingos and the horizon. If I were to fast forward about 10 years to my high school career, there were less than half of the flamingos left, and more buildings were being built. India started to become more populated, where there were polluted hazy skies and murky waters. Since I grew up in a city, I also heard of a lot of individuals being diagnosed with radioactive cancers, and it hit hard when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. That ignited my passion to do something and fortified my interest. I knew I had to be a part of this field. I’m a third-generation individual who has come to the city. I go back to my village every year and looking at the biodiversity, I observe the different species and ecosystems we have within these different countries. My second interest was technology and machines. I was fascinated by something as simple as the way machines work. It always stuck with me, and I wanted to fuse technology with environmental science to come up with cost-effective solutions for the people.”

Can you explain the environmental science curriculum?

“If you take a look at the outline of the curriculum, you will find that it is composed of the Rowan Core classes, which are required for all majors at Rowan University. Looking more closely at the environmental science major components, it has biology courses, including evolution, and ecology. There is the biology sequence, along with a couple of chemistry courses and physics courses. The main portion of the major comes from the upper-level electives, which become more specific and more advanced. There is flexibility to specialize in what type of environmental science you want to focus on studying.

“When looking at research within the environmental science major, this is one of the best majors to come into. We have young and enthusiastic faculty that are pursuing a wide range of research topics. You get to gain hands-on experience, and everything we learn is in real time. For example, there was a latex chemical leak in the river going through Philadelphia; we hear our classroom discussions about how we should be remediating situations like these. We cover the real-time impact and dive into the environmental effects. There is a benefit to learning about situations that are occurring presently. We have faculty that have expertise in various topics including measuring coastal environments through radioisotope methods, ecology, wetlands, insects, mapping, physics, and more. The faculty open the doors to bridging textbook knowledge and applying it out into the world, and knowing how it is applied presently. That is where you get the satisfaction of your education.”

What kind of jobs can you obtain with an environmental science degree?

“Environmental science offers a lot of avenues. Jobs within environmental science include mapping wetlands, working with state agencies, consulting for industries, sustainable packaging, and public health. If you name the industry, there is most likely a job with a position out there for you that connects to the environment. There is sustainability within an environmental science degree, it adapts to any profession you are interested in pursuing because we are focusing on becoming more sustainable and cleaner. This is the best time where the industries are repositioning themselves to meet the goals of the world.

Kriish posing for the camera outside in the environment

“That was my aim, and I started to further my education and started to find my way on how I could possibly bring these two fields together. That is when I started studying physics in India. In my first year, I built this low-cost battery assessor electric cycle, and my college back in India gave me an innovation award for this. An opportunity knocked, and I transferred to Rowan University to pursue environmental science. Since then, there has been no looking back.”

What type of impact do you hope to make on the world and others around you?

“Anywhere around the world, there is poverty and underdeveloped civilizations. We have about 2.4 million people using solid fuels to cook. Annually, we have about 3.2 million deaths caused by burning these fuels. The sad part that hits me is about 80% of these deaths are of children under the age of 5. Having clean air is so important for all. I want to be bringing all of these things and come up with cost-effective solutions to help with air quality and offer cleaner solutions. I want to monitor data and map communities to bring in better measures and norms to society. I believe that this is one of the underlying aspects of this chain. I want to focus my efforts and delve into technology to establish better environmental solutions to these problems.”

How has Rowan University been a part of your journey?

“I came in as a different person than I am now. I have gained a different perspective to empower the world with better solutions. Over the summer, I worked on two research projects through Rowan University. I wanted to gain experience that I could carry throughout my life. One of the most impactful projects I have done was developing a new method to map coastal environments, specifically salt marshes in New Jersey. We use imagery from drones to develop an index that will tell us which parts of the marshes are healthy, and which parts need restoration. The interesting part about this is that this is a completely new method that is being developed in collaboration with a collaborator, run by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. New Jersey has about 200,000 acres of salt marshes, and we are bringing in a cost-effective solution to analyze these marshes. Technology is making our experience easier when completing these assessments. Research is not cheap, but these cost-effective solutions are important in revolutionizing and minimizing costs. It is always good to be out there contributing to something that is so current.” I have also participated in other smaller projects, but this is one of my highlights in my experience at Rowan.”

Kriish working outside in jeans and an orange sweatshirt

Why did you transfer to Rowan?

“My decision to come to Rowan was because this department was brand new. There is a great faculty-to-student ratio and this sets the stage for better interaction with faculty members. I believe that it is beneficial to your learning experience. I wouldn’t have had the experience to work closely with other faculty members if there were hundreds of students in my classes. I was also very intrigued by the faculty’s research experience. This university has given me hands-on experiences that I wouldn’t have received at other universities. Rowan has a great campus location as well. We will do work with the stream on campus. Everything fits so perfectly. When I looked at Rowan, I knew that it was the place where I wanted to be. In the future, I plan on pursuing graduate studies to continue to grow in my field.”

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Written by Jordyn Dauter, junior dance & elementary education double major

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