Spotlight: Senior Engineering Majors

Stepfanie Lam

Biological Engineering

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Wilson Lam, Senior

What do you think is the greatest misconception about your field?

I think the greatest misconception about agricultural and biological engineering is that the field is narrow, but in fact, the field is very broad and encompasses a variety of other engineering disciplines and sciences. The field can have elements of chemical, mechanical, and civil engineering along with food, horticulture, and material sciences. Ag and bio engineering is diverse and opens a large window of opportunity.”

What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for?

I have been working on modified atmosphere packaging research since the summer. I may be part of the solution to the problem with food waste we have in this country. Tons of fruits and vegetables are thrown out every year when most of it is still edible. I think there is opportunity to create a sustainable package that will increase the shelf life of food products. Of course, this would not be possible without educating corporate supermarkets on how to properly treat and handle the products.”

Computer Engineering

Juan Nunez, Senior
Juan Nunez, Senior

What was your path to computer engineering?

“I initially came to UF as exploratory engineering [major] which is basically an undeclared engineer. I did not take programming my first semester here which is something most computer engineering majors take. I was between doing EE [electrical engineering] and computer engineering. I did not officially switch into computer engineering until the spring of my second year but I was already on track. It was always on my mind; I just wasn’t sure until I got to UF.”  

What is the greatest misconception about computer engineering?

“People assume that just because someone is really competent, they can simply look at a piece of code and know what’s wrong with it. Any type of program that is not trivial and is more than a couple hundred lines of code requires one to sit down and study it for a bit before they can make a reasonable judgement about it.”

What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for?

“I am actually not interested in solving any type of the present problems but I would like to see solutions to things like network problems. Things like how to create software and hardware that can withstand Denial or service attacks and having worldwide Wi-Fi anywhere you go. I know that one of Google’s current projects is currently aimed at that.”

Chemical Engineering

Tanya Therathanakorn, Senior
Tanya Therathanakorn, Senior

Why ChemE?

“I chose chemical engineering because it gave me a lot of options in the future because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. As a ChemE you can be in the medical field, industry, systems of food, pharmaceuticals, etc. Also, ChemE still involved science whereas most of the other engineering majors involved a lot of calculations. In addition, as concentrated as the name ChemE sounds, my first professor actually designed the hippopotamus exhibit in Animal Kingdom for Disney World, so we aren’t just limited to chemicals.”

What do you think is the greatest misconception about your field?

“People think we make bombs or we are chemists who create drugs. I actually did take a class on poisonous gas and TNT but the class was a safety class. It talked about the respectable boundaries of an explosion or under what concentration it is acceptable to have chemicals in the air before it becomes lethal. They also taught us how far we have to be for it to still be safe for the amount of contained explosion. For example, if there is a cloud of poisonous gas coming towards you, you want to run in a perpendicular direction, away from the cloud, instead of just running away from it. It is actually more about making sure the machines are cooled or the optimal amount goes into the machine so the company can save time and money. We are chemists but we make drugs on a large scale for industry as well. Right now, I am in a class called chemical kinetics and reactor design which may sound dangerous right? But at the moment, we are just going over rate laws.”

Do you feel that the chemical engineering professors have brought anything more than just a textbook education to your time at UF?

“I have professor who specializes in transport. His research is in drug delivery. He had us do projects that were individual or group and he would reward us for our creativity and we learned about heat transfer. He told us that there is an equation that we use to find out how fast heat transfers through a metal rod. He challenged us to find a way to test that. I knew that lemon juice on paper would be invisible but once you add heat, it changes the color of the paper–that is how invisible ink works. I got a rod and I covered increments of the rod in paper that already had lemon juice in it and as heat traveled through it, [I knew] the color would change. Someone else put butter on a metal ruler and they looked at when the butter started melting. That was a way he challenged us to more innovative way[s] to solve something you can do simply.”

Electrical Engineering

Melany Frehafer, Senior
Melany Frehafer, Senior

You have currently completed multiple internships as well as co-ops.  What are your tips for finding an internship and/or co-op?

“Don’t sell yourself short. Apply to as many companies and positions as you can that you find interesting. Learn about the company before you apply and fix your resume and cover letter to that company/position. Take advantage of the Career Resource Center. Have mock interviews and have them look over your resume and cover letter. Always do an interview—it is great practice”

What was your most memorable experience from doing a co-op?

“Meeting people and forming connections. Learning about the corporate environment and the company. How amazing chips and computers are.”

Jose Suarez, Senior
Jose Suarez, Senior

Why electrical engineering?

“I chose EE because I’ve always liked electronics. I liked to always have the latest play station, phone, or iPod. I always seemed to like to take things apart, too. To clean them or just to see what was inside. And when I saw all the chips and circuit boards inside I immediately went online and tried to find out what it was they were and what they did. I guess I just found it all interesting how it worked and decided that one day I wanted to be part of that.”

What is the greatest misconception about your field?

“People have the habit of confusing Electrical engineers with electricians. We are not the same. I can, as an electrical engineer, probably do an electrician’s job but not vice versa. In electrical engineering it depends on what branch you choose. There are a lot of fields to EE. Mine specifically is the Devices field. Meaning, I would like to design, test and create potential parts within cellphones or tablets. Anything from the antenna system to the display it uses or the sensors it gets.”

What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions to?

“In the world of EE, we are running into problems with Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is basically a statement that says that the components that go into a computer processor chip will double every two years. We are at the point in electronics where the dimensions we work in are so small that there will soon be no more space to shrink electronics down. We currently deal with components in the 14-nanometer range and beyond this range, the physics of electrons changes and we now have to deal with quantum effects. So I would ideally like to tackle these kinds of problems to help advance the future of electronics and technology.”

Is there any other engineering major you wish you could pursue in addition to EE?

“If I had to choose, it would probably be computer science just because they go hand in hand so nicely. I personally dislike programming so it would definitely be a great challenge to overcome and make me a better engineer.”

Mechanical Engineering

Elysse Rantanen, Senior
Elysse Rantanen, Senior

Why ME engineering?
“There are a lot of reasons behind this one. My favorite classes before coming to UF were physics and calculus. Mechanical engineering just looked like an application of physics to the real world. I was also considering biomedical studies before college and knew that biomedical companies looked for mechanical engineers as well as biomedical engineers. On top of that, my dad is a mechanical engineer, so I figured following his legacy wouldn’t be an awful idea.”
What do you think is the greatest misconception about your field?
“We don’t just build robots. We still have to write reports. Just because we’re engineers doesn’t mean everyone is good at math. Nothing gets easier once you get past the “weed-out classes;” you just get used to the workload and having only the night before an exam to study for it.”
Favorite class?
“EGM 3401 Engineering Mechanics – Dynamics. Pretty much a class about describing the motion of objects due to outside forces and influences. The class has a decent amount of math, but it’s especially interesting because you’re determining how a system will respond at any given time.”
Most memorable/challenging project/lab report?
“The most memorable report for me has to be the final report for Mechanics of Materials Lab, aka MoMLab. The beam my partner and I made had a cross-sectional area [for] which we couldn’t use the formulas the professor gave us for calculating our effective modulus. So it led to about half a day of deriving another formula which worked for our beam.”

Keith Rausch, Senior
Keith Rausch, Senior


Advice?
“Some companies discriminate against high GPAs just as much as they discriminate against low GPAs. You cannot win the GPA war, so go off and play the extracurricular experience game.”
Favorite class & most memorable/challenging project/lab report?
“ Numerical methods, Intermediate Engineering Analysis (IEA), dynamics, and controls. These are the most fundamental classes for dealing with advanced problems and accomplishing or describing some action. Engineers in my field need to be familiar with the content in these courses if at least on a level of, ‘I remember something like this happened in one of my classes. I’ll go Google it and get back to you.’”

Kendall Wade, Senior

Did you expect to end up as a mechanical engineer?

“Yes, I have always be interested in machines and how they work. I have been set in what major I wanted since high school. I can’t really see myself as any other major.”

What do you think is the greatest misconception about your field?

“The biggest misconception that I have noticed is that mechanical engineers are the same as car mechanics. We don’t all know about or work on cars. We design many more machines than cars and it’s not our job to fix them; just make better ones.”

What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for?

“I personally want to work on industrial robotics. Moving more tedious or dangerous tasks to machines helps make better lives for people. Also, efficient production helps business and hopefully gets manufacturing back to the US.”

Aerospace Engineering

Michael Dimitriou, Senior
Michael Dimitriou, Senior

Did you expect to end up as an aerospace engineer?

“Yes. I’ve been interested in aerospace engineering since the beginning of high school and UF was my top choice to attend.”

What do you think is the greatest misconception about your field?

“The greatest misconception to me is that everyone expects me to become a pilot. While this was a goal of mine before, and still happens to be, there is a lot more to the major than planes. The auto and power generation industries employ aero engineers as well.”

-What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for?

“It is cool to think about being in the position to solve all sorts of problems with the degree I am pursuing. From a more efficient engine to transporting passengers across the globe to a streamlined body of a sedan to maximizing MPG, I’m excited to be a part of the solution.”

Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering

Santiago Marin, Senior
Santiago Marin, Senior

Why aerospace & mechanical engineering?

Ever since I was little I’ve had a huge passion for all things space. Sci-fi movies like Star Wars or Battlestar Galatica made a huge impact on how I think humanity should one day traverse the world around it. Aside from that, real life endeavors, like the Saturn V and the Apollo Program, or SpaceX and their vision of establishing a multi-planetary species, have served to truly ignite my passions. From the get-go, I’ve done everything I can to one day work alongside my idols and sources of inspiration at NASA and SpaceX. And to get there, aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering are the manifestation of how I can contribute to a spacefaring future.”

What is your favorite class so far?

“I guess I would have to say that my favorite class so far has been Stability and Control of Aircraft (EAS 4400). It was basically the first time that we were able to look at airplanes or other aerial vehicles in class and understand how they work. There [are] hundreds of counterintuitive and awesome facts about how flight works. For example, can you imagine an airplane with no wings? Yeah it’s not possible, but IF it was, it would be more stable during flight than an airplane with wings. Don’t believe me? Go ask Dr. Lind. So overall, aside from some occasional quizzes, going to class was actually fun since we got to learn about what we love, as well as [to] see how everything we have learned so far, like statics and dynamics, can finally be applied to things that fly.

What is the most memorable project you have completed so far?

“I don’t really think that I can choose a single memorable project. But there [is] definitely a top 3. In Design and Manufacturing Lab (EML 2322L), we got to build our first actual “robot” device, which was supposed to carry out a certain task. I took it over summer, and I HEAVILY suggest taking it over summer to those that haven’t taken it yet. Not only was it amazing to finally build something with my own hands, but it solidified my career choice; I knew I wanted to be in mechanical and aerospace engineering after that. This is also where I met my best engineering friends; the long and grueling nights of working on reports makes them grow on you I guess. The other two projects I really enjoyed working on, again despite the massive reports, were Aerospace Design I and II (EAS 4700 and EAS 4710). In these classes we were exposed to working with a large team and designing something of large significance. In Aero I, we designed a satellite for NASA, and in Aero II, we designed two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as build[ing] quadcopters from scratch and fly[ing] them! These two classes were probably the hardest challenge[s] I’ve ever had to overcome, but they’re also the ones that have felt the most rewarding. Only after taking them do I feel like I can call myself an engineer.”

Civil Engineering

Alyssa Egnew, Senior
Alyssa Egnew, Senior

What is the greatest misconception about civil engineering?

“The greatest misconception about civil engineering…most people are like, ‘oh that’s bridges and stuff, right?’ Yeah, it is! But it’s also made up of geotechnical aspects, transportation, waste water systems, construction and project management. Not just structures, though that’s what most people know.”

What was your favorite class?

“My favorite class has probably been Structural Analysis. It was the first time that I felt like I was doing something practical with what I’ve learned since I could design my own beams!”

Why civil engineering?

“I chose civil engineering because it is the broadest and most practical of the engineering fields. Every country, developed or developing, is in need of civil engineers. Chemical or nuclear engineers, for instance, are not as in high demand in countries like Haiti or Cambodia. Infrastructure is a continuing issue, whether it be new or maintained. I feel like I can best serve my world and the people around me by doing something I love that they can benefit from. Better quality of life coupled with missions work is what I’m aiming for.”

Biomedical Engineering

Aaron Johnston, Senior
Aaron Johnston, Senior

Why biomed?

It’s not an easy field for sure; you really have to learn a huge amount of information from several fields that in the past were considered very ‘separate.’ It fuses biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. You have to understand it all. I personally plan to get a masters degree in biomed and continue on with my research in biomaterials and stem cells. I am in the 4/1 program. After that I plan to go to medical school and specialize in orthopedic reconstruction.”

Biomed at a really exciting time right now, it is at its inflection point—it’s just starting to take off.  What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for and what is your current area of research?

“People are trying to create new and better heart stints, [to] find better ways to perfect imaging to see cancer sooner. Others are developing systems to make x-ray motion picture cameras to view joint movement live. I and a lot of other people are involved in stem cell manipulation to cure an assortment of different diseases. I work manipulating nanoparticles in order to promote different types of stem cell multipotency and for imaging.”

What is the greatest misconception about your field?

“Most people seem to have the idea that biomedical engineering is just about creating robotic prosthetics and ‘iron man’ suits when there is really so much more to biomed. X-ray machines, CAT scans, stem cell research, brain-computer interfacing. It’s really a lot larger field than I believe many people think.”

Materials Science Engineering

Kristin Raacke Tringali, Senior
Kristin Raacke Tringali, Senior

What was your greatest challenge?

“I really can’t narrow it down to one single most challenging course but what I can say is that all of junior year was a blur – it is when you are finished with the general engineering classes and focus on the materials ones.  The third year of MSE is the most rigorous on courses and the work expected for each class.  While it is all doable, you certainly get close with your cohort so that you can work together and maximize your productivity while learning from each other as well.”

Co-op experiences/stories?

“One of my most entertaining conversations with my mom was when she met my coworkers at an internship, all engineers, and was surprised at how entertaining we were to be around.  She was surprised that there was so much personality for such a stereotyped field – engineers are consistently rumored to be dry, boring, and unenthusiastic.  Yes, there are a lot of those types of engineers, but there’s also a lot of the opposite too!  In regards to MSE, it isn’t really a well-known field yet, as I get asked a lot what my major actually means.  On the most simplified level, materials science and engineering focuses on the “why,” You can ask when professors explain the way that a material behaves–why some materials are strong, others break easily, etc.  We study the Materials Science Tetrahedron– structure, processing, properties, and performance of materials–and how all of these interact and are affected by the others.  We discuss how to make improvements, we look at how/why a material broke in service, and we learn about the stability of materials when they are exposed to corrosive environments, or simply, when it’s sitting outside in our humid weather.  (Just to name a few.)”

What are the kinds of problems you want to find solutions for?

“One of my favorite things about MSE is that you can really take it anywhere you want to.  When I chose the major, I thought I wanted to work in the biomaterials field.  As a type one diabetic, I wanted to invent and work on the next devices or solutions that diabetics and others could use to improve their quality of life.  With time, I found myself interning with a microelectronics company, and later, in the petroleum industry.  Really, there aren’t any limitations to materials science because nearly every (if not all) engineering company needs a materials engineer on their team.  For our program at UF, we choose our specialty in our final year, choosing amongst metals, polymers/biomaterials, electronic materials, and ceramics.  Personally, I am interested in metallurgy since I will be working in the petroleum industry.”

Where would you be right now if you hadn’t chosen materials science engineering?

“I have always really enjoyed chemistry, so I think that my second choice behind MSE would have been chemical engineering.  However, MSE has seemed to be a nice combination of several majors, with a lot of avenues possible to take in the future, so I am very happy where I ended up!”

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