Where They’re Headed: Grace Klinges ’15

Grace Klinges ’15 is a research fellow with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, working to develop ways to respond to abandoned and active hazardous waste sites.

This summer Grace Klinges ’15 started her research fellowship with the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education’s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) through an interagency agreement between the EPA and the Department of Energy. “OSRTI responds to abandoned and active hazardous waste sites and accidental chemical releases and develops long-term remediation technologies to address contaminated soil and groundwater,” she explains.

Klinges has been interested in geology and environmental protection since high school. “[M]y high school ‘AP Environmental Science’ class really got me thinking about the need for private businesses and industry to clean up the messes they’ve made,” she says, “and also about the science behind monitoring and enforcing the RCRA, Clean Air, and Clean Water Acts that are the backbone of the Superfund/CERCLA program.” (The program is the result of a 1980 act of Congress which gives the government the right to respond to hazardous spills, assign blame, and provide funds for cleanup when no responsible party can be found.)

While at Haverford, Klinges deepened her understanding of the science behind environmental cleanup. “I determined early on that I was interested in the intersection [of] biology and geology, and in particular the role they play in water and soil quality,” she says. “Even though few classes are taught in the department pertaining to these issues, my professors made a special effort to help me find research positions that meshed with my interests.”

After her sophomore year, the Bryn Mawr geology department helped Klinges find an internship working with the Pennsylvania Water Science Center through which she met Dr. Denise Akob of the United States Geological Survey. A year later she became a research assistant for Akob, studying an unconventional oil and gas (“fracking”) disposal site in West Virginia. She wrote her senior thesis with advisor Professor Don Barber about the work she did for Akob. This research will also be included in a paper published by the Akob lab later this summer.

After completing her fellowship, Klinges plans to either pursue a Ph.D. or go into environmental consulting. Whichever she chooses, she knows she will likely rely on the people she has met at Haverford and through her research. “I feel that a great deal of my success is due to the network of connections I’ve built in the past few years,” says Klinges. “Every research position I’ve had grew directly from another, and thus I’ve never gone blindly into a job search.”

—Jack Hasler ’15

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.