Name: Meagan Young
Hometown: Dallastown, PA
Shaking Things Up
I always wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid. It was my childhood dream to study whales and dolphins when I grew up. That dream ended as soon as I had to dissect a worm and a frog in middle school. I decided right then and there that biology was not for me. After that I turned to engineering and looked into various fields. Out of my high school science courses, physics was my favorite. I also took what some might call an abnormal liking to calculus. I was deciding between civil and mechanical engineering. The civil engineering program at Johns Hopkins caught my attention – primarily because of the research backgrounds of the faculty and the small classes. The courses seemed really interesting. I knew I wanted a small school and Hopkins seemed like a great fit. As it turns out, the professors and classes really are fantastic. They are very easy to approach and genuinely want you to succeed.
If you’re interested in seeing what courses we have to take, the actual course requirements can be found here: http://www.civil.jhu.edu/current-undergraduate-advising/ I love the freedom we’re given in our department to choose our Humanities and Social Science courses. I was even able to fit in a second major in archaeology! I really enjoy a lot of my engineering classes. “Perspectives on the Evolution of Structures” was definitely one of my favorites. It is taught by Dr. Schafer, my adviser and head of the department, and is typically taken by freshmen in their spring semester. The course covers the three “E”s of civil engineering design: economy, elegance, and efficiency. It’s cross-listed through MICA, so you get the best of both engineering and artistic perspectives, while going through a history of design principles.
I take a liking to classes with hands-on labs because the labs reinforce what you learn in class. You can see the physical application of all the equations written up on the board. Statics, Dynamics, and Soil Mechanics are a few of the classes where you get to participate in labs. We probably had a little too much fun in one particular Soil Mechanics lab; we had to trace the movement of water through soil using food coloring. Some of the blue dye got into the water and we decided to be creative with some whiteboard markers and a little bit of red food dye. Senior design is another one of my favorite classes. Engineers from two different firms come in each semester and teach us “what they wish they knew” before they graduated and entered the field of structural design. The courses have largely team-based assignments. Right now my team is working on our final project, which will be presented to our teachers, other engineers, our faculty, and students in the department. It’s really exciting to learn real-world applications before we actually get out into the real world.
Each semester the department sends out a list of available research positions for undergraduates. You can check out their specific research interests here: http://www.civil.jhu.edu/people-departmental-faculty/I spent one semester in the Smart Structures and Hybrid Testing Lab and built a model suspension bridge, which is now used for experimental testing on a uni-axial shake table.
Aside from the general engineering student groups, the Civil Engineering department has its own professionally-affiliated student group chapter: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). They host socials within the department, attend dinner lectures with the Maryland Chapter of ASCE (great for networking!) and enter various competitions. For the past two years I helped design a miniature golf hole which we brought to the Maryland Chapter event. Last year we built a miniature version of the upper quad and Gilman Hall. This year I’m planning on getting involved with the seismic design competition. Student chapters have to build a structure out of balsa wood within specific guidelines and have it perform to certain standards.
The Whiting School of Engineering offers the Vredenberg Scholarship to engineering sophomores and juniors (and sometimes seniors who will stay for a fifth year). Students can write up a grant proposal to go anywhere in the world to do research. It’s the student’s responsibility to find an international host (institution, university, etc.), a project related to their career aspirations, and housing arrangements, and then they have to write up a budget and statement for their particular research topic. The scholarship will fund up to $8,000 for around 13 students.
I was fortunate enough to be awarded the grant to cover an 8-week adventure in Kyoto, Japan. It was my first time abroad and first time traveling alone. I did research in seismic design through Kyoto University and was able to attend several international conferences and summer school sessions in Tokyo and Kobe. I was able to visit engineering museums (with damaged material from the Kobe Earthquake) take part in various cultural festivals. It was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. The pictures are of Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo and me in a yukata with a woman and her granddaughter. The woman’s family owns the little gift shop we’re standing in. I bought a kanzashi (hair stick) from her and in return she put up my then-short hair for the Gion Matsuri festival!
Right now I’m in the process of applying to graduate school for a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. There are two types of Masters: one-year coursework Masters, which are terminal degrees, and two-year thesis Masters, which can set you up for a Ph.D. later on. I want to specialize in structural engineering and seismic design. After I get my degree, I’d like to design structures, retrofit existing structures, or work in earthquake reconnaissance. If I can be of more assistance to prospective students in any way, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Civil Engineering question thread.