Billy Beauregard always planned to concentrate in environmental science and engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Environmental science classes at his Massachusetts high school inspired him to think more about sustainability and green technology, and he maintained that interest once he arrived on campus.
What Beauregard didn’t anticipate was how much water management and infrastructure would come to define his experience at SEAS. By his sophomore year, he’d joined Harvard College Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and over the next three years rose to co-leader of the group’s Dominican Republic project, which is drilling boreholes and building water storage and distribution systems in the Los Sanchez community.
“I started doing actual engineering work with water distribution, and realized I liked it,” Beauregard said. “The general idea of sustainability, of wanting to make this world a better place for everybody, helped me gravitate towards EWB. It’s about making a real-world impact.”
EWB’s two ongoing projects are in the Dominican Republic and Kenya, but both groups have had limited opportunities to see their work in action. COVID-19 travel restrictions kept the club on campus for more than two years, with the Kenya team finally getting to visit its community last summer. Beauregard and the Dominican Republic team finally got to visit Los Sanchez this past winter, a memory that ranks among the highlights of his time here.
“I knew I was going to enjoy it, but it was even more life-changing than I could imagine,” he said. “It was a really overwhelming experience, first because I’d been anticipating it for three years. It felt like a really good culmination of our work to finally be able to travel and see this community that we were trying to help, and see how excited they were when we got the water pumping from the well.”
Chris Lombardo, EWB’s Faculty Advisor and Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at SEAS, first met Beauregard in ES105HFR: Humanitarian Design Projects, a class associated with EWB. Despite not yet being a member of EWB, Beauregard quickly dug into the software used to model a well that had already been drilled, as well as its distribution pipelines.
“Billy was always very enthusiastic about learning multiple aspects of the project,” Lombardo said. “It’s rare that the students become that highly engaged in the quantitative work at that depth so early in their involvement.”
Beauregard’s experience in EWB became a foundation for many other water-related experiences. For a senior capstone project, he developed an algorithm to help households catch rainwater and distribute it for lawn irrigation. He also spent his last two summers interning at Weston & Sampson, a Boston-based design engineering firm, where he helped design new drainage systems for several Massachusetts municipalities.
“I remember the first internship I did, I worked on designing a new water main in Belmont,” he said. “The year after that, it was already implemented. A running club I was in had a meet in Belmont, and we drove by the area where they’d just installed it. I could see the new paving there, and it was the coolest thing ever for me.”
Beauregard so enjoyed his internships that he’ll be returning to Weston & Sampson as a full-time engineer after graduation. He’ll be focusing on stormwater drainage and infrastructure for both individual buildings and municipal improvements.
“In the past there wasn’t as much foresight with regard to sustainability, but now everything is ramping up,” he said. “Whatever project you find, there’s going to be some sort of sustainability aspect, which is really cool to see, because there should be in any new development. The first summer when I was working on water main installations, some of these pipes had been in the ground for 100 years. Obviously, they did a pretty good job, but there wasn’t much sustainability focus back then.”
Having seen Beauregard develop over the last three years, Lombardo is certain he’ll succeed in his upcoming job.
“Billy very strongly developed his leadership skills, his ability to work with multiple stakeholders who have competing interests, and translate paper designs to the real world,” Lombardo said. “These are skills that make him stand out as a recent graduate.”
Beauregard said a “gut feeling” led him to pick Harvard over other prestigious colleges. He might not have known exactly where his interests would take him over the next four years, but thanks to Harvard he’s been able to use his education to improve people’s lives and set himself on a career path doing what he loves.
“It’s been a fantastic time, between the academics I’ve had, the EWB experience and all the friends I’ve made,” he said. “I definitely wouldn’t take it back for anything.”
Matt Goisman | email@example.com