Amanda Sorenson longs to protect the great outdoors.

She grew up in Townsend, Montana, a mountain community of 1,800, where the air is clean and the water is pure.

“I always loved being outside,” she says, adding she often went camping, swimming, and skiing. At age 8, she joined a 4H Club that brought the first recycling program to Townsend. Soon after, she and other children went door-to-door, instructing neighbors how to recycle and asked for their cooperation. The experience was so empowering, she never forgot it.

Now, the 21-year-old senior, who plans to become an environmental engineer, is involved in a project where she is again focused on the environment. Her UROP project involves studying how particles are dispersed through grass in the water, which can help us better construct artificial wetlands to treat water pollution.

Along with Prof. Heidi Nepf, Sorenson worked fulltime this summer examining the coastal marsh in the Plum Island Estuary in Rowley, Mass. The water project, she says, could eventually help us understand physical processes that will ultimately protect water quality.

“It’s important to me that I’m doing something in my life that’s actually going to help somebody in the future,” she says, adding that thanks to UROP, she is doing valuable, real-world research.

“One of the best things about UROP is that you learn by doing things yourself. It’s easier to remember an experiment you did than to remember equations on a page. And it’s easier to remember seeing the actual graph of the fluorometer reading than if the teacher just writes it on the board.

“I know we’re running out of resources in the world, and it’s really important to preserve our water. But I didn’t understand before I began this project that in science, real success is helping other people.”