The Student Experience

The Student Experience

The Student Experience

students and an alumna conversing in a crowded room

Students Connect with Alumni on "Speed Dating" Exploration Night

By M. Sharon Baker

When Clara Monheit Berman entered the University of Washington three years ago, she only had a vague notion of applying engineering concepts to medicine.

She didn't know where that interest would lead or what profession the combination equaled. Like many of her peers, she initially struggled to connect that interest to a professional path. Many students think they know what engineering is, but making the connection to a job is difficult. Attending the past several Engineering Exploration Nights helped Berman, who is now a junior focused on biomaterials, connect her interests to a career path.

"Engineering Exploration Night opened my eyes to a professional world. After learning the alumni's stories and meeting interesting people in fields that I was passionate about, I felt empowered with a new sense of purpose," she said. "The event helped to connect my classroom activities to a possible, and very exciting professional future."

“When you are just starting out in engineering, you start with courses that aren't as interesting and you don't have a good idea of what problems you might get the opportunity to solve.”
Alumna Sabra Rossman BS Math '97, MS CSE '01

More than 30 alumni shared their stories and answered questions at the fourth annual Engineering Exploration Night, which was created by the College of Engineering's Student Academic Services. About 100 students gained exposure to the field and learned about different disciplines after talking to alumni in three speed-dating-like sessions.

Alumni came from Amazon, Microsoft, and Tableau Software; Boeing; biotech firms including Presage Biosciences, Pacific Bioscience Labs, Amgen, and CMC Biologics; Aerojet Rocketdyne, mPanion, Inc. and Hydroacoustic Technology, Inc., among many others. Students had the rare opportunity to talk to chief executive officers to chief technical officers, senior scientists and civil and electrical engineers.

For alumna Sabra Rossman, (BS '97 in math and MS '01 in CSE), attending Exploration Night is a chance to promote computer science and let students, particularly women, know there are many career options available. "I have a successful career," she said. "I like to tell students that you can go out and have fun and be an engineer, too."

Rossman entered UW thinking she'd conduct drug research and go into pharmaceutics, but wound up studying computer science and becoming a software engineer. Today, she is a technical architect at Cadence Design Systems with two patents to her credit.

"I landed an internship in design automation and (back then) the tendency was to get a job in what you had an internship in," Rossman said. "When you are just starting out in engineering, you start with courses that aren't as interesting and you don't have a good idea of what problems you might get the opportunity to solve."

Students had the rare opportunity to talk to chief executive officers to chief technical officers, senior scientists to civil and electrical engineers.

Freshman Steven Bell knows how competitive it is to get into the mechanical engineering department, so he gave up a few hours of midterm study time to learn about other engineering opportunities.

"I know what I want to do but it all depends upon what I get accepted into," said Bell, who would like to land a coveted spot in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, join the UW's Formula 1 race team and eventually work for an automobile company like Tesla Motors. Attending Engineering Exploration Night and speaking with alumni helped him formulate a backup plan and realize that he doesn't have to land his engineering dream job right out of college.

"It really solidified my feelings about engineering," said Bell, who spoke to a mechanical engineer, an aerospace engineer and a chief engineer of astronautics. "I had the great chance to find out more about what I'll be doing in the future."

Alumni interested in participating can contact: Kelly Williams at kvw9880@uw.edu or 206-221-5072.