Aykurt Kalican and Rye Walencewicz talk about their work with Audubon Connecticut and DEEP on Barn Island in Stonington for their environmental engineering collaboration. Image has been sent
Three students from Rivers Community College are working with the first graders from Salem School, who were seen checking out the river simulator last year. Photo by Deepa Khan Maktab
Deepa Khan office
Professor Deepa Khan – Three Rivers Community College Office Norwich A renowned environmental engineer, she has spent her professional years in both the classroom and the field, striving to preserve the health and dignity of the natural world, which our species enjoys. Seriously ripped off at an alarming rate. And though our species has labored in the deplorable practice of self-serving gain–at the expense of other life forms on planet Earth–dedicated activists like this tireless professional stay on course for a better world.
A one-time environmental engineer with Electric Boat in Groton (mid-1990s), Dr Khan sought to make a greater impact in critical areas of hazardous waste removal, air compliance and, above all, the ever-looming climate threat. Change you feel needs to be taken seriously.
“While I was in EB and Hazardous Waste Management, I dealt with harmful ingredients commonly found in industrial manufacturing,” she explained. “Some states, including Connecticut, have strict regulations for this process.”
Professor Khan Maktab explains that many of us are not aware of the harmful products we are exposed to on a daily basis, such as plastic, which she says “are popping up everywhere”. As important as the work this energetic and still young professional was doing at Electric Boat was, Diba Khan-Bureau felt she could have an even greater impact as a scientist working in the actual field.
“I am afraid we are systematically affecting our environment negatively and we need to do something about it now. Herbicides and pesticides are destroying insect species. This type of behavior needs to be addressed if we want to keep our world healthy. But it is very difficult to change the way people think when you think In there are many countries (80%) that include insects as part of their daily diet.”
The severity of the mounting crisis of the usual destructive activities of our species prompted the young professor to become a more active activist in the field of environmental engineering – leading not only to her own groundbreaking scientific discoveries, but to the all-important field of education and the recruitment of enthusiastic students in the field as well.
“I was credited with discovering a new species of diatom: Didymusvenia holly.” (For those of us not fully tuned in to scientific terminology, a diatom is a single-celled, photosynthetic organism…and there are millions of them!) Khan-Bureau is among those knowledgeable enough, active enough, and keen enough In her profession to make such a discovery.
Not only does she continue her valuable contributions to the study and help to protect the natural world—to which she has dedicated her life—she has also now encouraged and mobilized a legion of climate and field warriors, forming a veritable student army of environmental science majors at Three Rivers Community College.
“I teach them about the science involved and the regulations that are critical on a national and global level in relation to today’s concerns,” Khan-Bureau said. This includes biodiversity decline, water and air pollution, and the threat of invasive species to name a few of the studies involved. My students and I also vibracore (a technique for collecting core samples from riverbeds) in the ground to determine how long these types of nuisance diatoms have been living in the Farmington River in Connecticut.”
In essence, this professor has transcended the classroom by rallying together and leading a team of budding young students who now share her longstanding commitments and convictions.
“Everyone needs to take our responsibilities to this planet a little more seriously,” she explained with iron passion, deep and honest. “I don’t think that ordinary people are deliberately trying to destroy the environment, but the public should be more educated about our ecosystem and the services it provides us, while large companies should be more aware of the consequences.”
Undeterred by the vitriol unleashed from radio and television talk show hosts–and from shortsighted legislators who treat the climate change crisis like a crude joke, Khan-Bureau forges ahead with her rapidly growing army of dedicated science activists committed to saving our natural world. . . And our future.
“I believe in humanity and in the people who really matter. The beauty of education is that it opens the door to knowledge and opportunity.” She added with a smile of quiet confidence.
Our planet has a powerful player in this woman–and those who are now taking the path that led her to a life of meaningful passion. Dr. Diba Khan’s office trains them to care enough about what is happening to our planet and encourages them to enter an arena in which they can help turn it around on behalf of a world in dire need of help.
“Okay, find a way,” this honest crusader for our environment assures us.
Sidebar to Diba – “Beyond the Classroom”
by Nicholas Thank
Three Rivers Community College students, Diba Khan Maktab, go beyond the classroom in their pursuit of degrees in environmental engineering technology. These ambitious young academics are all devoted to the science of preserving the health of the natural world and hone their craft through internships awarded by such prestigious organizations as Audubon Connecticut, Eightmile River, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, DEEP, and the US Geological Survey.
All of this “learning and hands-on craftsmanship,” as Professor Khan Maktab puts it, is made possible by generous training grants that send these young environmentalists into the field like true professionals.
Two of these promising young men from Dr. Khan’s scientific program – Office are Aykurt Kalicon and Rye Walencewicz who have recently completed an extensive field study of the conditions on the marshes of Barn Island, Stonington. Their increased experience level was impressively displayed on the last day of the 2022 fall semester, this past December 16th.
Not only did the two young men detail their studies and their findings as if speaking from the point of view of accomplished field technicians, but they also conveyed the same air of conviction that was so integral to their curriculum. Both spoke glowingly of all they had learned under the tutelage of their beloved teacher…and of their own aspirations.
“I came into this program with just an idea of what environmental engineering technology is all about,” Callicon said. “Everything is now firmly established for me, and I completely understand my direction in life.”
Walencewicz largely expressed the sentiment, adding, “Ultimately it was Deba’s passion for what this work actually means that sealed it for me.”
The professor’s spirited students agreed, and for reasons of their own.
Hannah Chapman said, “I didn’t know what I really wanted in the major until I got into this program and realized I wanted to work with wildlife and with nature.”
Randy Charter recalls a longer journey toward his decision, saying, “I started in Three Rivers six years ago with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had an interest in marine biology, and then Deba’s curiosity ended up in the field. I hope.” To work either in conservation or in OCHA. Most of all, I now have a definite direction in life.”
Not only did Giselle express her area of interest, but an air of extra hope for herself…and others. “I came to Three Rivers because I wanted to help heal my community—a low-income area,” she expressed with soft power born of newfound convictions. “I was interested in social work, because of the close ties to my culture. Once I set my feet on the grass itself, I felt a real connection with the natural world. I never realized I could make a living doing this kind of work.” (Or how she might inspire others from her culture to discover such hope).
It has long been said that teaching is about shaping young minds with the aim of developing productive citizens. Spending time with the students of Dr. Deepa Khan’s office makes it clear that this is exactly what happens in her classroom…and beyond.