Hello! My name is Lauren Ritter and I am a senior undergraduate Mechanical Engineering and Sustainability Dual Major here at UNH. I have always had an appreciation for nature and the outdoors; growing up in southern New Hampshire, I spent a lot of time exploring the protected river and forest behind my house. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, or take after my role model Steve Irwin! As it turned out, I was much better at building things and figuring out how they work. I joined the robotics team in high school, finding a passion for engineering and mechanical design, and ran with it ever since. As much as I loved STEM and the opportunities it provided, I still felt like something was missing. That's when I discovered the Sustainability Dual Major. It opened my eyes to the possibility of being a catalyst for change in the engineering industry; using what I've learned in my Sustainability coursework, I want to imporve the way engineers think about how their design and manufacturing processes impact the community and ecosystem around them.
Interestingly, both of my senior capstone projects are focused around the ocean. For Mechanical Engineering, my project is based in the Ocean Engineering department, investigating the logistics and cost of installing hydrokinetic turbines on estuarine bridges in order to collect clean, renewable energy that is as predictable and reliable as the tides that generate it. For Sustainability, my interdisciplinary team is working with municipalities in Southern Maine to generate a basic assessment of what communities on the East Coast are doing to respond to increases in sea level and storm surge due to climate change. My area of focus for this project is evaluating flooding risk for manufactured capital, such as buildings, roads, bridges, and port facilities.
Outside of school I participate in a variety of activities. My passions include rock climbing, mostly in local gyms but also outdoors in areas like Rumney, Pawtuckaway and Newbury Cut. I dabble in the arts as well, occasionally singing as an alto in the choir for my hometown church, or creating miniature acrylic paintings on 3x3" canvases. I specialize in natural landscapes and ocean scenery.
My Sustainability journey began at UNH with Surveying Sustainability, where I learned the basics of the three pillars of the field: economic, social, and environmental sustainability. With a fresh understanding of these systems and how they work, I was ready to apply my knowledge to critical systems thinking. It was time to begin unraveling the wicked problems that this field was brought about to solve. This was addressed in Sustainability Perspectives and Methods, where we delved into the roles of stakeholders, collaboration, and the challenges that come with bringing together diverse groups of people to solve a complex issue. These concepts and techniques for collaborative problem solving grew in relevance as I took my Sustainability electives, such as Green Building Design and Ecogastronomy. The culmination of my studies was the participation in my Sustainability Capstone, in which I applied what I'd learned to perform collaborative research towards the coastal resilience project I described above. All of these experiences have had an impact on my career, as well as what choices I make towards my lifestyle.