ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Green River High School graduate Atlin Johnson was recently named the 2021 Civil Engineering Outstanding Junior at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Every year, each department in the school of engineering selects one student from each class as an outstanding student. Johnson is studying civil engineering with an emphasis in water resources.
“I went into this field because of my interest in water, specifically rivers. Growing up in Green River, I was fascinated by the John Wesley Powell expedition, and because of that, the Colorado River. This interest led me to discover all of the issues going on with water use in the Colorado River Basin, and the threats that it faces due to both overuse, and drying from climate change,” Johnson said.
Johnson was born in Rock Springs, but grew up in Green River, where he lived through his high school graduation. His dad works for the Union Pacific and his mom works for the Sweetwater County Treasurer’s office. His older brother attends Northern Arizona University.
Receiving the award for Civil Engineering Outstanding Junior was unexpected for Johnson, as he had no idea he was being considered among his fellow classmates.
“I do not know what the criteria was for this award, which led my selection to be quite a surprise for me. I had no idea I was even in the running honestly, as there are so many brilliant people here. I am honored that my efforts and achievements have been recognized, although I definitely feel some imposter syndrome still,” he said.
Additionally, Johnson was also selected for a fellowship program in 2020 as part of the UNM Interdisciplinary Science Co-op. Johnson was selected along with two other undergraduate students to study water resources.
“We took two semesters of a graduate class focused on water resources both in the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. Now that the semester is over, we are spending the month of June developing a computer model to simulate how water moves and is used throughout Albuquerque and the Rio Grande,” Johnson said. “The ultimate goal is to create some kind of game (think of Oregon Trail) where a user can gain an understanding of water in the region.”
Johnson said the experience has been great so far and that he’s making several valuable connections for the future of his career.
T’he classes were taught by experts in the field, and I have created many connections with people who I feel will be massively helpful in the pursuit of my goals,” he said.
As for his career goals, Johnson wants to work to promote greater sustainability within the Colorado River system.
“I want to work on Colorado River negotiations, and help to change how the system operates to promote greater sustainability both for the sake of having a reliable water supply, but also to restore the integrity and natural ecosystems of the river,” he said. “As a large-scale goal, I want to help the Colorado River finally flow to the ocean again (it hasn’t for quite some time).”
If his academic achievements thus far are any indication, the future of the Colorado River looks positive with Johnson navigating the waters.