Maggie Carolan’s freshman year spring break was where it all started.
“I was going to IKEA with my mum, because IKEA’s the best,” the Stafford, Virginia native explains, pronouncing her words with a hint of an accent she picked up from her Australian mother. “We were in the car, and I get a call. And it’s Dr. Marc Edwards.”
Edwards is the Charles Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, known nationally as a MacArthur Fellow whose specialty lies in water supply safety. Most recently, Edwards has made headlines for his work uncovering and inspecting the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water supply.
He was calling Carolan to tell her she’d been accepted to a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program in water science at Virginia Tech. When Carolan had applied for a research experience, Edwards’ program was labeled as the investigative epidemiology program — her first choice, since she’d begun to feel a calling in public health and infectious disease.
Carolan was fully aware of the magnitude of the phone call — which perhaps was why she sounded so eager to accept the research experience position. “I talked to him and I sounded super nerdy, like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was like, ‘I love the water cycle, like that’s why I love water!’
“It was so bad,” she said, laughing.