Paula Chou is a mechanical designer with Glumac, A Tetra Tech Company, based in Irvine, California. She works on the sustainable design of HVAC projects for architects and owners of building construction. Paula has a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering. We talked with Paula as part of our #TtInspires campaign celebrating the passion of Tetra Tech employees. Follow #TtInspires on social media for more stories.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

I love being outside and grew up camping every year at different national parks in the Western United States. I also always had an affinity for math and physics, so engineering was a field I was interested in pursuing. Environmental engineering allowed me to pursue those two interests—I could learn more about how things work though physics, while also learning how our designs impact the world around us.

What are some of the most inspirational projects you have worked on at Tetra Tech?

Designing the mechanical systems for a new high-end flagship retail store and cafe in Northern California has been one of the more challenging projects I’ve been involved with. But it’s been a huge learning experience and one of the most interesting designs I’ve done, because we’re incorporating so many different design components into this three-story building. We have a radiant slab heating and cooling the rooftop cafe, radiant chilled beams in parts of the retail space, and a variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system with demand-control ventilation. I’ve grown to understand radiant systems on a more detailed level and feel challenged to use that knowledge to push for this sustainable technology on future projects.

What do you do outside of work that makes a difference for the environment?

I volunteer at a local nonprofit in Huntington Beach, California, called Common Ground. We operate as an after-school program providing mentorship and fun trips for kids in a community that often sees high school dropouts, crime, and gang violence. We have a community garden, teach kids how to live a healthy lifestyle through sport and diet, and provide a safe space for the kids to grow and develop away from the influences of crime and gang violence. I believe this makes a difference, because education and mentorship are huge factors in how we as individuals end up treating and respecting our environment and each other.

Are we making progress in creating a better world for ourselves?

At Tetra Tech, I’ve seen people work above and beyond their job responsibilities to make a difference—and that in itself is progress. It inspires me to take action to engineer a better world for ourselves and future generations.