Skip to navigationSkip to contentSkip to footer

2009 News Releases



Murcott’s work encourages girls to go into science careers

Written by:

Debbie Levey
Civil & Environmental Engineering

Many adults can trace their choice of profession straight back to something that captured their imagination during childhood — perhaps an inspiring teacher, or a fascinating book or an intense experience. The Cool Careers book series for grades four to six features lively short biographies of scientists and engineers, including CEE senior lecturer Susan Murcott ’90, S.M. ‘92, to show children how these professionals found a way to follow their passions.

As the featured water engineer in “Cool Careers in Environmental Sciences” by Brenda Wilson (Sally Ride Science, 2009), Murcott describes how almost a billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. She then explains how people work together in many very poor countries to develop appropriate water treatment systems. A page of questions and related activities expand on the subject of water — its value, the sheer burden of hauling it and the locations of major rivers.

During her many years of research and teaching at MIT, Murcott has helped CEE students develop and test household water filters in Nepal, Ghana, Haiti and other countries where people rely exclusively on polluted water sources. She stresses using simple technologies and locally available materials such as sand and nails to expand the number of people who can benefit from the new water-cleaning methods.

Each book in the Cool Careers in Science series contains interviews with 12 interesting people actively involved the title topic (medicine, space, earth sciences, engineering, etc.), with suggested activities and supplementary notes for teachers. Sally Ride Science, an organization headed by America’s first female astronaut, publishes the series to promote interest in science and technology, particularly among girls, who might not realize how many opportunities have opened up for women.