Want to know what it's like to be a UW CEE student? Meet some CEE undergraduate and graduate students.
MSCE Class of 2014
BSCE Class of 2011
MSCE '09; BSCE '07
BSCE Class of 2012
Engineers without Borders
MSCE, Structural Engineering, 2014
What made you choose to enroll in this program at the University of Washington?
I chose to enroll in the structural engineering program at the University of Washington due to the high caliber of students and faculty, the intensive yet well-organized curriculum, as well as the convenience and affordability of the school.
What questions or issues drove you to focus in this field?
My interest and passion for high-rise buildings and bridges drove me to focus in civil engineering. I was fascinated by how these structures were designed and built. As a structural engineer, I get to work alongside architects, and contractors from design to final completion. In addition, this field offers high rewards and the chance to see your own designs become reality.
What research have you participated in?
As an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Washington, I was able to be a part of the Accelerated Bridge Construction Research Project led by Professor John Stanton and Marc Eberhard. My experiences in the lab ranged from pouring full size concrete columns, testing materials using LabView, and recording/sorting data acquired from tests. This opportunity has given me a good understanding of the procedures used in research and development.
What are some of your favorite things about the program so far?
One of my favorite aspects of the program is the freedom to take a wide variety of classes that sparked my interest. During my graduate studies I was able to take classes in construction, mechanics, and project management. This has really allowed me to diversify my knowledge and stand out from other students.
What classes or lessons learned in the program have had the most impact on you? Have you used your new knowledge in your career?
The lesson I have learned that I would advise to new students is to take any opportunity provided to you. College is like a playground; you should try different things, diversify your skill set and find what you are good at. It also allows you to learn from your failures without the repercussions of the real world. Also, no company wants a dull 4.0 student, so take on leadership roles, network and make yourself marketable to the industry upon graduation.
Tell us about your internships. What were the highlights, and did you find it helpful to supplement your studies?
• Mangusson Klemencic Associates (Consulting): At MKA, I mainly worked on the design of structural components for high-rise and office buildings. Beyond the design experience, I got the opportunity to learn what it was like to work with architects during design and contractors during construction. A lesson to take home – whether it is expressing your idea, explaining your understanding, or just listening to other parties’ needs, good communication is essential and makes working together so much easier.
• Seattle City Light (Public Agency): I also interned at Seattle City Light where I focused on seismic retrofits/upgrade of buildings and electric utility structures. Since I was working for the City, many processes and design are done in specific ways which are typically different from what we learn in school nowadays (e.g. hand calculations versus computer analysis). My take away from this experience is that the city’s way of doing things is much more old-fashioned so being able to follow directions and ask questions when lost is important.
• Manson Construction Co.: I have also had practical experience in the construction side of engineering through my internship with Manson Construction Co. There, I got to work on a number of small projects from ferry terminal retrofits to designing formwork for the foundation of a Ferris Wheel. Through this internship, I was able to gain experience and understanding in many aspects of heavy construction (estimating, scheduling, and constructability) which have proven to be valuable in my career.
What are your plans for after graduation?
My plan after graduation is to find a job at a structural engineering company and utilize my skills acquired through my master’s program and previous experience.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Competition is fierce in the real world, so take any opportunity in school to make yourself more marketable. I have seen too many classmates focus on nothing but homework, classes and exams. What really sets one apart from other students, are the experiences and risks one is willing to take on throughout college. It’s these kinds of experiences that will shape students into the desirable candidates that companies are seeking.
Graduate Student, Geotechnical Engineering
I chose to continue my education here at the UW here because I am learning from well-respected research faculty, who are also excellent teachers. The geotechnical program has strong ties to the local professional community, and there is a great sense of community and openness within the geotechnical program and throughout the department.
Currently, I am involved with Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society, as its Vice President. The UW chapter of Chi Epsilon is committed to academic excellence, integrity, sociability and community service. I am also president of the UW chapter of Geo-Institute Graduate Student Society, which brings lecturers to seminars for graduate students.
After graduation, I plan to work as a geotechnical engineer in the Puget Sound area. One of my career goals is to be a part of the movement in this field towards performance-based design and serviceability. I have benefitted, as a student, from several professional engineers who were willing to mentor me and other engineering students. I plan to do the same thing throughout my career and help up and coming engineers successfully transition from academic to professional life.
BSCE Class of 2012
When I first came to the UW, I planned to fulfill my childhood dream of designing “spaceships.” I never imagined I would be lured into a major that in comparison never leaves the ground. But then I went to Bolivia with Engineers Without Borders (EWB), working with communities on the stabilization of rural roads. Since then, I have worked as as EWB’s Projects Director and Roads Project Lead. The CEE department has been instrumental in supporting EWB’s work – from lending hard hats to the countless hours of staff and faculty time that make the organization’s work possible.
My work with EWB pushed me to study Civil & Environmental Engineering due to its relevance to address the challenges faced in the developing world. My main interest is water – and there is no better place to learn about the challenges of water management, both here and abroad.
Working in Bolivia forced me to question our role as engineers and as the ‘developed’ world. Why can we call a hotline to fix a pothole in Seattle, yet in Bolivia they spend years trying to get a basic road? These questions drove me to study development aid efficacy independently in Nicaragua. I learned that engineering was only one part of the development puzzle, and combined my technical studies focused on water in CEE with an individualized program in Development Studies.
After graduating, I hope to pursue a doctorate focusing on the social responses and policy options for mountainous countries whose water supplies are most threatened by climate change, such as Bolivia and Afghanistan (my parents’ home country). I want to focus my career on public scholarship and policy advocacy around water and development issues in the developing world. I know that the rigorous preparation provided by CEE will be essential in order to understand and translate the technical debates around water that ultimately shape public policy.
PhD Candidate, Transportation Engineering
STAR Lab Researcher
MSCE '09; BSCE '07
Coming out of high school with two years of Running Start, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, but I couldn't decide between two seemingly incompatible disciplines - Civil or Computer Engineering. Displaying total lack of commitment and decisiveness, I chose to do both, right here at the UW. Fortunately, this "decision" paid off and I have found a way to combine the two in a meaningful way in the Transportation Engineering field. I have been doing research since my Junior year and am now in my second year of my PhD. For most of my work, I find that computer engineering serves as the toolbox for the civil engineering problem set.
Most of my research has to do with the development of sensors that use surveillance video and short-range wireless communication protocols to capture travel behavior of cars, pedestrians and cyclists. I'm also working on trying to measure waiting times on bus stops. All of the data collected can be used to justify facility improvements (for pedestrians and cyclists) or relayed back to the users - like the traffic map on Google or One Bus Away.
I've had the opportunity to do and present my own research, teach an undergraduate class and pursue a business idea all because of the support offered by the UW CEE graduate program. There is a tremendous amount of encouragement given to students that wish to try new things. I have access to one of the best equipped labs in the country, great contacts with regional transportation players and a well-established, positive relationship with my advisor. The headway I made doing research as an undergrad made continuing at UW an easy decision.
BSCE, Class of 2011
In 2009, I was a team leader for the Environmental Innovation Challenge where we worked on a prototype for a green energy technology. The Environmental Innovation Challenge is a joint venture between the College of Engineering and the Business School. It gives grants for groups for research and development, and to create a business plan to take the idea to market and make it profitable. We received a $5,000 grant and built a device that used waste heat to generate electricity. It was lots of fun and I learned that engineering is only half the equation - you have to sell your idea too.
I chose the UW because it is a great school with great instructors and great opportunities. Nowhere else do you have such a confluence of great attributes in one place. The people of Seattle are willing to go out of their way to mentor students, internships and co-ops enhance your experience, and there is every type of outdoor activity within 2 hours. You can do so much more than just your degree and get a truly rounded engineering education. I've taken classes in architecture, anthropology, and even a class about organic urban farming!
After graduation, I plan to travel and then work for a company that I interned with the summer after junior year, building structures over water. I am looking forward to this line of work since the engineering is so challenging. Eventually I want to go to graduate school for Geotechnical Engineering, and get involved with an engineering project in a developing country.
UW was an obvious choice for me because of the multi-modal high-tech environment in Seattle. Here, we are surrounded by fantastic examples of transportation solutions and problems to solve. The professors in the department do a great job of using the setting to bring examples to light and focus their research on local issues.
My research focuses on understanding and affecting mode choice to develop a more sustainable transportation system. Much of my current work is on OneBusAway, an open-source transit traveler information system. The purpose of OneBusAway is to develop information tools for rider use, as well as undertake research as to the influence of these tools on rider perceptions.
PhD Candidate, Water Resources
Before applying to the CEE Department at UW, I earned my MS at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, where I studied land-surface hydrologic interactions and land cover change. I was also a Graduate Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences, where I gained insights into science policy related to water resources management and the constraints imposed by social institutions. These experiences made me increasingly aware of – and frustrated by – the disconnect between science and decision-making. The UW's Water Resources Program offered me opportunities to actively participate in policy-relevant science and work towards bridging the gap between research and water management communities.
I've had great opportunities to participate in a broad range of research projects, such as investigating climate change impacts on water resources in the Puget Sound and Yakima River basins, and studying the sensitivities of Colorado River stream flow to changes in temperature and precipitation. The faculty and staff are very supportive - I feel fortunate to be a part of a community of people who are looking out for my best interests.
My advice to prospective graduate students is 1) find an advisor that fits your interests and goals, and 2) look at the opportunities available beyond just those in the particular department you are applying to. In addition to the quality classes I've had in CEE, I've benefited from taking classes in the Atmospheric Science Department and at the Evans School of Public Affairs. This has really helped me expand my research community and diversify my skill set.
PhD Candidate, Geotechnical Engineering
I chose to pursue my graduate studies at UW CEE because of its respected program, excellent faculty, and variety of research opportunities. The geotechnical engineering group has the camaraderie and power I was looking for in my area of study. I am also an avid alpinist and photographer, having scaled hundreds of challenging summits in North America, so it was a great perk to be nearby my favorite stomping grounds - the beautiful and rugged North Cascades.
My research is part of a 3-year Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) project investigating earthquake liquefaction initiation and effects. This project is an multi-institution project which includes researchers from Alaska, California and New York, and includes both analytical and experimental work. I have specifically been looking into identifying time-evolving ground motion intensity measures that can accurately predict the occurrence and timing of liquefaction, and to explore the use of timing information to improve the accuracy of predictions of the effects of liquefaction. This will inform more accurate design and emergency preparedness decisions in liquefaction-prone areas.
PhD Candidate, Construction Engineering
True Story of UW-branded Self-Discovery: You know you’re an engineer if you think the world revolves around you because you defined the coordinate axis. So if you are considering coming here as an undergraduate or graduate student, remember that your education is what you make of it: but you define yourself by what you do with it.
It seems like just yesterday I made the decision to come back from the professional world to academia. After almost 4 years, it has certainly been a fun ride.
I confess I had no reason to apply to UW other than I had a couple college friends in the area. UW also was not my first choice since it required an out-of-state move, and tuition. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that took me about two quarters to find my niche in the Construction Engineering department. I haven’t looked back….well, ok, so I am still a die-hard structures nerd, even though my advisor and my work with Greenroads might suggest otherwise.
The Construction Engineering faculty is outstanding. I’ve been given so many opportunities that it would be impossible to state that it hasn’t been “worth it”: to come back to school, to leave my family, to go out on my own, etc. My experience here has changed my perspective on so many things and provided me with unlimited creative outlets that I’d never have had a chance to participate in otherwise. I’ve been able to teach, do research, and learn in a number of different environments and even outside the confines of my discipline.
What I have definitely found at UW is that there is a place in academics for exploring both the theoretical and the practical. This is important for at least two reasons: 1) by coming here you are given an avenue to make an individual contribution as soon as you find where your interests are, and 2) there is a dense support network available to help you contribute to the greater good in society. I find my experience here in the UW CEE department to be incredibly invaluable. It was a lucky choice for me and I hope it is for you too.