Tim Hreha (1st Quarter, 2009)

by Josh Barsch on August 20, 2010

1st Quarter, 2009
Engineering Scholarship
Tim Hreha

I am currently in my first semester at the University of Colorado at Boulder, taking some undergraduate courses to correct deficiencies from my background in mathematics education. I decided to pursue a Master’s in Civil Engineering in order to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to help combat the many problems looming for humanity in the future, especially the adverse effects of global climate.

A Portion of Tim’s Winning Essay:

Tim Hreha

The University of Colorado was an obvious choice when I decided to pursue a graduate degree because of the Building Systems Program. The Larson Building Systems Laboratory provides opportunities to work with full-scale commercial HVAC and building systems, something that would be invaluable when eventually looking for a job in the industry. The Lighting Laboratory also provides a dynamic environment in which to learn about daylighting, something with not only career benefits, but also psychological ones.

These facilities would enable me to gain hands-on research experience throughout my time in Boulder, an opportunity to which I am really looking forward. I would love to participate in the ongoing research that Dr. Michael J. Brandemuehl is doing on intelligent systems that optimize a building’s energy efficiency. The work that Dr. Moncef Krarti is currently doing on indoor air quality and the thermal energy analysis of building envelopes is also very appealing. This would be extremely valuable to me because I hope to make a career out of retrofitting buildings with such systems. From the LEED-certified Convention Center, the soon to be finished subway expansion, and the green wall being designed for PNC’s building downtown, my hometown of Pittsburgh is fast becoming an urban hotbed for sustainability and I believe that abandoned buildings from the Strip District to Mount Washington are prime candidates for such retrofits. I plan to capitalize on this trend by finishing my degree within the upcoming year and finding a local company with Pittsburgh’s and the environment’s best interests at heart. Once I have achieved those goals, I will be able to live my dream of helping Pittsburgh continue to become a model for sustainable development.

I cannot wait to begin gaining experience in a field that is not only fascinating to me, but also one that will enable me to contribute to the solving one of the world’s most pressing crises; meeting the needs of the current population without making it more difficult for future generations to meet their own needs. My passion for sustainability evolved from simply recycling at home to pursuing a graduate degree in the field as I became more aware of the many problems facing the global community. I took two courses in Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering during my first three semesters at Penn State. Energy and the Environment covered many of the factors and effects of global climate change, including the burning of fossils fuels and the melting of polar ice caps. Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection covered many strategies for making homes more energy efficient, including more effective forms of insulation and where to install solar panels in order to achieve maximum output. After graduating and being hired to teach algebra and geometry to high school students, I found myself wanting to spend my time in the classroom discussing the latest article from National Geographic about green roofs, or an inspiring talk by Bill McDonough from TED.com, rather than trying to teach my students topics like “the distributive property”. When I heard about a company named Aveda that was collecting plastic bottle caps in order to reuse or recycle them, I immediately began to save my own.


I notified my friends and family about the program and within two months my brother had accrued 20,000 caps with the help of the students at the middle school in which he teaches. All of the old televisions in my garage were removed once Best Buy announced their electronics recycling program. Compact fluorescent not incandescent, compost not trash, and the list continues to grow, but the message remains the same; I have found something that I am passionate about. I have taken in so much information that now I’m making a list of my own ideas, from the need for biodegradable toothbrushes to piping daylight indoors through ventilation systems. I need the help of dedicated and experienced people to further my growth and am prepared to work extremely hard to do so, simply because that is what I want to do.

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