"Choosing a major is not an end point, but an opening to new possibilities."
Lizaine Saranglao is studying civil engineering at Rutgers School of Engineering. Here the South River, NJ resident reflects on time as a student and her plans for the future.
What appealed to you about civil engineering?
During the freshman engineering orientation class, I was most attracted to civil and mechanical engineering. But I realized that civil engineering is in everything around us – from buildings and bridges to highways and roads. We constantly use the products of civil engineering but we often do not realize its impact—I wanted to understand it.
For me, civil engineering is a good fit. I’m a people person and civil engineers have to deal with people – from working in the field or the office with construction and design teams to even government agencies.
Did you know much about civil engineering before coming to Rutgers?
I had heard the term but didn’t know much about it. My uncle worked on the Freedom Tower but didn’t talk to me about engineering until I became an engineering major my freshman year. He started his career in the Philippines and it was quite a transition for him to end up working on such a big project.
What do first year students need to know about Civil Engineering?
It’s very diversified. There are so many disciplines involved in civil engineering – from structural, environmental, transportation, construction and geotechnical engineers. There is a lot of opportunity. It’s a much more open-ended field than they might think.
Do you have a senior project?
My project for my capstone course involves a structural study of a 20-story residential building going up in lower Midtown Manhattan. We’ve not only learned about how to actually build the building but also about the different factors involved in making a building in the city – like codes, zoning regulations, environmental considerations, traffic and pedestrian safety concerns.
What was your favorite course and why?
Steel Design, because I was first exposed to the design aspect of real world civil engineering projects. This wasn’t a textbook course. It challenged me to be creative.
Who is your favorite professor and why?
I have two. Dr. Husam Najm, who taught Steel Design. He was passionate about teaching and really took the time to share his passion and industry skills with us.
Dr. Nicole Fahrenfeld, who taught fluid mechanics, is one of my favorites as well. She is one of a few women engineers in the civil engineering department. She’s a great role model for me and other women students in engineering.
What about internships?
I’ve had three, which have given me valuable exposure to some of the different disciplines involved in civil engineering.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
I’ll be traveling through the Philippines this summer, where I will visit family. When I get back in the late summer, I’ll start a full-time position as a Junior Design Engineer with Dynamic Engineering Consultants in Belmar, NJ. My job will involve site/civil work.
How do you hope to give back to future SoE students?
I’ve learned about how to give back to the community and would want to share that with students who come after me. I’d love to come back to share information and insights, to help mentor or tutor students. Classes can be intimidating and there is a lot of pressure. I’d like to let them know that choosing a major is not an end point, but an opening to new possibilities.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your first-year, first-semester self?
Since I’m a commuter student and a very independent learner, I’d tell myself that while it’s good to learn on your own, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help as well. Rutgers has so many resources that can connect you to what learning is really all about. So, I’d encourage myself to reach out for help. This is college: no one is holding your hand to help you get to graduation. It’s up to you!
What do you do for fun?
I’m passionate about community service and event planning. I’ve been involved in everything from soup kitchens to Habitat for Humanity and various activities through the Rutgers’ Catholic Student Association, I love to sing and dance and was the VP for ballroom dancing as well as competed in ballroom dancing with other schools outside New Jersey.