Samantha Burke, EIT

Samantha is a civil engineer at the Philadelphia Water Department, where she works in the Planning & Research Unit. Her work at PWD focuses on wastewater facility planning, which involves hydraulic, treatment processes, and cost analyses for PWD's 3 wastewater treatment plants as well as structures in the collection system. Samantha graduated from Lehigh in 2014 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and recently completed her M.S. in Civil Engineering from Villanova University, with a focus in water resources engineering. Samantha joins the 2018-2019 YMF Board as one of our College Contact Chairs.

Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Sam stays connected to her neighborhood through sports and academic volunteer activities, and in her free time, enjoys spending time with her fiancé, friends and family, playing soccer, and traveling (as well as planning trips for others).

How/when did you realize you wanted to be a civil engineer? / Why did you first study engineering?

Throughout my entire life, I was fascinated by the magic of Disney and all of the elements that bring Disney’s theme parks together. Since I was 11, I wanted to build roller coasters and rides – I wanted to be a part of a team that creates something that makes people happy and excited. During my sophomore year in high school, I came across the term “Imagineering”, which led me to engineering, and then civil engineering. As I conducted more research on civil engineering throughout high school, I realized how many areas there were in this type of engineering. I was 18, and not entirely sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so the wide variety of career opportunities in this field was the primary reason for me choosing civil engineering as my college major at Lehigh University.

What do you enjoy most about your current position? Your career as a civil engineer?

As I continued through college, I realized that I didn’t necessarily need to work at Disney and build roller coasters to bring value to people – there were other ways to achieve this. I was introduced to the Philadelphia Water Department in 2013 when I interned at the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant. I quickly developed an appreciation and interest for all of the services that water utilities provide, most of these services being under the surface (literally) or in secluded areas that the public doesn’t frequent. I realized how interesting water services are – despite water being an essential resource for life, the inner workings of how water is treated, distributed, and/or conveyed is not general knowledge. In 2014, I accepted a job at PWD focusing on wastewater facility planning, and have been part of this team for the past 4 years. This position has allowed me to gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation for PWD’s drinking water and wastewater services, and most importantly, the people who make it all happen.

Who is/are your role model(s)?

My top role models are my mom and dad. They have taught me so much about various aspects of life through their examples – having incredible careers where they helped countless people (both nurses), being self-aware, making insanely good meals, building a strong family, working hard and achieving their goals, and (in general), just being genuinely good people.

This year, you served as a mentor in our YMF's Mentor Program. Why do you think it is important to have mentors to look up to as a young civil engineer?

I think mentor/mentee relationships are so important, especially in engineering, because there is so much to be gained by listening to and learning from others’ experiences, and working through situations collaboratively. For younger engineers, it’s incredibly valuable to have a mentor, as I feel that it builds confidence knowing that you have someone “in your corner” looking out for you.