Delivering Transformative, Sustainable, and Appropriate Solutions for Environmental Challenges, with Dr. Lilia Abron – Ep #43

Since the industrial revolution, we have been contaminating our water, air, and land at alarming rates. We also are faced with an epidemic of homelessness. Who can we turn to for these alarming issues which we face? Is there anyone who has tackled these problems successfully? Mark’s guest this week has taken on both of these problems. 

Dr. Lilia Abron is a trailblazing entrepreneur. She has the distinction of being the first African-American woman in the country to earn a PhD in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Abron is also the first African-American to launch a consulting firm which focuses on environmental issues. She was an early pioneer in the idea that sustainability initiatives can improve the condition of impoverished areas around the world.

Lilia has created an incredibly successful career in business and community involvement. She is the Founder and CEO of PEER Consultants, PC, an environmental consulting firm out of Washington, DC, but which has offices in 10 cities. She has also served as a board member with the Baptist Home for Children, as well as President of Jack and Jill of American, Inc. in Washington DC. 

Dr. Lilia Abron completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry at LeMoyne-Owen College. After earning her Master’s Degree in Sanitary Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, she worked as an environmental chemist before going on to complete her PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Iowa.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:05] Mark introduces his guest, Dr. Lilia Abron
  • [3:28] What drew Dr. Abron to engineering
  • [8:02] Lilia’s time working as an environmental chemist before going back to get her PhD
  • [11:20] Dr. Abron originally wanted to go into academia
  • [14:40] Starting PEER Consulting and the difficulties Lilia faced
  • [18:38] Working on cleaning up Boston Harbor
  • [24:00] Sanitary engineering is the same thing as environmental engineering
  • [25:23] Lilia’s experiences working in South Africa
  • [29:30] The transformation of the housing program in South Africa
  • [39:14] Dr. Abron’s advice for those starting a small business

Connect with Dr. Lilia Abron

The need for environmental engineering and consulting

Industrial processes used routinely everyday – many dating  undertaking since the industrial revolution have taken their toll on the Earth. With all of the mounting issues with the environment today, who are the professionals who work to solve these problems? Environmental engineers work to protect the people from environmental issues and improve general environmental quality. They endeavor, in part, to ensure that we have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.

With her academic and professional background in engineering and environmental chemistry, Dr. Abron was an ideal candidate for the cleanup of Boston Harbor, as mentioned in today’s episode. Her Masters degree was in Sanitary Engineering, a field which has since become Environmental Engineering. This rebranding is due to the increasing awareness of environmental issues, and the need to take a more proactive approach to the health of our environment. 

The use of passive solar housing in South Africa

Passive solar housing is a design process where the entire house is structured and oriented in such a was as to collect, store, and distribute solar energy in the most efficient way possible. The layout provides a way to store and use heat in the winter, but reject it in the summer. An interesting thing about passive solar housing is that it does all this without the use of electrical or mechanical devices. 

Being an engineer, Lilia knew about this idea. As she mentions in the interview, South Africa was implementing a program to house their homeless. The initiative, which set aside 5 percent of their government’s budget to build housing for the millions of homeless which the nation had, was a noble one. She looked at the design for their houses and realized that for the same cost they could be built more efficiently. 

To know more about the life and work of Dr. Lilia Abron and her trailblazing work in science and South Africa, make sure to listen to her full conversation with Mark on this episode of When Science Speaks.

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