After earning a bachelors
degree in civil engineering from the University of California
at Irvine, Robert Mrse headed straight for the beach. However,
surfing and tanning were not part of his plan. As co-author
of a study on water quality and storm runoff prevention at
Avalon Bay, Calif., Mrse spent most of his beach time in an
old ticket booth that served as a makeshift laboratory. There,
he analyzed water samples and was able to pinpoint the culprit
of bacterial contamination that had been plaguing the bay:
decaying sewage pipes in the downtown area adjacent to the
shore were leaking into the water.
Mrse's dedication to work pursuits
rather than fun in the sun have paid off in many ways for
the now 28-year-old engineer. Bacteria levels along the Avalon
shoreline decreased by more than 50% following his work in
2000. "This particular study was cool in that we actually
were able to find the source and make a difference,"
Mrse's experience in water quality
and stormwater management also helped propel him into a budding
career as an engineer. . "I was curious about hydrology,"
he says. After his work at Irvine, Mrse joined RBF Consulting,
ranked 83rd in ENR's Top 500 Design Firms in the U.S., and
now works as a design engineer for stormwater management in
the company's Irvine office. An active member of his local
chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering, Mrse
says his experience with water quality and storm water management,
along with merits from his university job, helped him land
his current position during a time of economic downturn.
Currently, Mrse is working
on a Runoff Management Plan for a planned community in Orange
County, Calif., called Santiago Hills, where water quality
could negatively impact the surrounding environment if the
correct safety measures are not taken, Mrse says. His days
are occupied with hydrologic analysis on the 495-acre project,
financed by Irvine Community Development Co. Mrse conducts
site work based on topographic maps to determine if runoff
from the development will exceed standard limits. Although
some of his workdays may extend into long hours, Mrse still
finds his work at RBF and in the field of civil engineering
fulfilling. "Growing up in Southern California I guess
I felt a sense of social obligation to the environment,"