Spotlight: Civil Engineering

A photo of Cornell Engineering student MeredithMeredith is a civil engineering major with a focus in structural design. She is minoring in engineering management and will be working for Clark Construction as an enginer after graduation. Meredith served as Social Chair and later President of Cornell’s branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and served as one of the design leads of Cornell’s Steel Bridge team. She was also a peer advisor and a teaching assistant for several courses in her time at Cornell. She is from Santa Barbara, CA and her favorite ice cream flavor at the Cornell Dairy Bar is Big Red Bear Tracks.

Many people are under the misconception that civil engineering solely consists of building skyscrapers. While this is by no means an unsubstantial part of the field, the major itself is so much more than that. At Cornell, you can learn about structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering, hydraulic engineering, environmental engineering, construction management, heavy civil engineering construction, surveying, and so much more. Among other things, civil engineers can research building materials and seismic design, go into the industry to design groundbreaking new dam technology, and tell subcontractors how to build major bridges. As a Cornell CivE, you have an incredibly large choice of classes to take, beginning from your core classes sophomore year, so you’re really able to tailor your learning to what you are specifically interested in. On the structural track, I took core classes such as Statics, Mechanical Properties of Materials, and Structural Modeling and Behavior, and I elected to take higher level capstone design classes such as Design of Concrete Structures, Advanced Concrete Design, Introduction to the Behavior of Metal Structures, Concrete Materials and Management, and LFRD-Based Engineering of Wood Structures.

There are many student organizations that civil engineers at Cornell can get involved in. For example, the American Society of Engineers is a national professional organization, and we have a Cornell student section! Cornell ASCE puts on bonding events for civil engineers, participates in community service events, hosts company info sessions, and is a way for students to hear from professors about what they’re passionate about. Additionally, there are many project teams and research positions that students choose to invest their time in, some of which participate in competitions, some that allow students to work with faculty members to write papers, and others that help communities in third world countries.

I personally chose to become a civil engineer because it’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, even more so since coming to Cornell. What I love most about our program is that our faculty members are incredibly devoted to lecturing on the subjects they themselves are passionate about, and it’s amazing how much that influences the minds of the students in their classes. It’s not even a surprise when we hear that Professor X, Y, and Z consulted on some of the largest engineering projects in the world in recent years. Despite their prowess in their respective fields, all of our professors are humble and are willing to speak with us whenever about schoolwork, extracurriculars, and life in general. In addition to our faculty, our staff is incredible. They all work on the second floor of Hollister Hall, and they plan community events, offer support with graduation requirements, have candy baskets and tissues at the ready, and are always willing to sit down and talk as well.

Cornell civil engineering has fully prepared me to take on the real world. I could not ask for a better support system from staff, faculty, and peers. We are able to take part in unique projects and research, form lasting friendships with one another, and still be in involved in organizations outside of our major. It’s truly a special and diverse major, and I’m forever grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had as a Cornell civil engineer!

—Meredith, civil engineering