Civil Engineering Alumna Explores Ghent University in Belgium for Doctoral Studies

Brianna Pagán, M.S. ’17, is building upon her research in climate change and water resource engineering and applying it to her doctoral studies in Belgium.

In August, Pagán started working full-time for the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) as a Hydroinformatics Researcher working on a project called “The Internet of Water.”

“VITO is an independent Flemish research organization in the area of clean-tech and sustainable development. Our goal is to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world,” said Pagán.

Pagán spent her undergraduate years at California State University, Long Beach, where she earned a degree in environmental science and policy. At Loyola Marymount University, Pagán earned her master’s degree in civil engineering with a concentration in water resource engineering. LMU was a perfect fit, she says. Pagán was able to attend the graduate program while working full-time at the Long Beach Water Department as a water conservation planner, already actively engaged in water conservation efforts. And it didn’t hurt that Pagán’s sister, an LMU Bioethics professor with three LMU degrees, always spoke highly of the university.

Pagán deeply valued the wealth of hands-on, industry experience of her LMU professors, the majority of whom had first-hand experience in water management outside of the classroom. She also appreciated LMU’s commitment to research and ultimately, to its students, who were able to gain exposure to real life situations through their graduate education.

Pagán found that LMU’s Los Angeles location was advantageous for her research. She completed her master’s thesis, “Understanding the Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources in Southern California,” during a severe Southern California drought. As a result, she was seeing in real time many of the risks and impacts she was writing about.

Following her time at LMU, Pagán began her Ph.D. studies at UCLA in the Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering program. She spent summers doing research in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Climate Change Science Institute. Though Pagán feels that California will always be her home, she moved to Belgium to complete her doctoral studies because she wanted a broader experience, both culturally and in terms of her research. In California, she was addressing issues of drought and water shortage; in Belgium, a land of canals and much, much more rain, the issue is flooding. The change in environment has Pagán thinking about an entirely different set of risks associated with climate change.

Once she earns her doctoral degree, Pagán hopes to work in a field that allows her to couple her climate change research with real policy. “Policy is way behind the science,” said Pagán. She hopes that her future career will afford her the opportunity to change that.

When Pagán isn’t busy researching, she’s likely trying to relax with one of her favorite pastimes: running (she recently completed the Rotterdam Marathon) or playing classical piano.