College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Providing solutions through water quality practices: A glimpse into ABE alum Bethany Brittenham’s career 5 years after graduation

After graduating from the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering five years ago, Bethany Brittenham has been immersed in improving water quality and designing projects throughout the Midwest.

Brittenham graduated from Iowa State in 2017 with a M.S. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. Now, Brittenham works for ISG, a multi-disciplinary design and engineering firm based in the midwest.

In Brittenham’s position, she focuses on designing and implementing water quality practices in multiple states. Some of Brittenham’s favorite projects include implementing a 56-acre wetland in Buena Vista County, a 9-block redevelopment project incorporating green infrastructure to treat all runoff from the block, and a habitat restoration project including a pond, oxbow, and native vegetation – all completed just five years after graduating from ISU.

A lot of Brittenham’s work consists of methods to reduce and treat runoff, an area she studied rigorously in school. When Brittenham was studying in ABE, her main research was on an expanded STRIPS project, focusing on improving ag runoff quality and measuring changes in soil health under restored prairie.

For Brittenham, her career is about being in a welcoming community, with a variety of work to help the environment. Sometimes she will work on agricultural projects, sometimes water resource projects, and other times civil engineering-related jobs.

“I love my job because I am always learning new things,” Brittenham said. “If I was in a position where I was doing the same thing every day, I wouldn’t have the challenge and change of pace that I need to love my career. I work in a place that works as a community, and we all work together.”

Now, Brittenham consults clients and works with them to implement plans, discussing pros and cons and developing thoughtful solutions. But Brittenham says that while she asks lots of questions and shares her opinions now, it wasn’t always so easy. Gaining that skill helped her be where she is now, she says.

“When I was in college, I had to learn to ask questions and speak up for myself,” Brittenham said. “And now in consulting, I’ve found myself using that skill.”

When it all comes down to it, Brittenham says the biggest impact she wants to make is enhancing the efficiency of land through her solutions, while incorporating water quality and multi-purpose benefits, creating a healthier and cleaner earth. And as a trailblazer in her career, passing huge project milestones right after graduation, Brittenham says the best advice she can give to future students is to believe in yourself and do what is best for you.

“I think one of the most important things to do is believe in yourself and everything you can do,” Brittenham said. “You really never know what you could be doing in five years. I have friends that are in a completely different field that they didn’t need an engineering degree for, and some that are following an engineering path. But no matter what, you could be in a totally different place in five years, so you should do what is best for you.”