Published: July 24, 2017


Why did you choose engineering at CU Boulder?

I did not know anything about engineering when it came time to apply to colleges, and CU Boulder was one of the schools I applied to because it was familiar and close to home. I chose to join the engineering program because I knew it would be challenging, but I think the biggest reason was the inspiration I drew from my father. My father is an incredibly smart and creative HVAC technician who has always encouraged me to think about the way things work and think how these things could work better. He is very passionate about his work, and if he had the opportunity, he would have also studied engineering. Instead, he worked to provide me and my siblings the opportunities he did not have. I chose engineering at CU Boulder because I wanted to make my dad proud and show him that his sacrifices were appreciated.

What does the #iLookLikeAnEngineer hashtag mean to you?

#iLookLikeAnEngineer is a way to combat the stereotype of what an engineer looks like and who can be an engineer. This hashtag is a way to inspire kids who might think that they do not fit the engineer mold to pursue a higher education in STEM. There is a lot of power in seeing someone who looks like you or shares a similar background as you succeed. Sometimes this can be a parent, relative, or member of the community; however, many kids grow up in communities where cultural and socioeconomic circumstances make it very difficult to achieve this type of success, so these types of role models are few and far between. That is why #iLookLikeAnEngineer is so powerful. It helps make visible the very real truth that anybody from any background can become an engineer.

What are three things that make you unique?

  1. I was born in Mexico, but I have lived in the United States for all but eight months of my life. I am a Dreamer, and I hope that the hard work, dedication, and persistence of myself and other Dreamers will soon be recognized by the country we call home.
  2. I have been breakdancing for nine years. I travel across the country to compete in competitions with my crew, Bedtime Monsters.
  3. I really enjoy writing and language in general. I definitely enjoyed English class more than math in high school.

Favorite quote or mantra?

"Sueña y serás libre en espíritu, lucha y serás libre en vida.” (Dream and be free in spirit, fight and be free in life.)

What are your career goals?

One of my biggest goals is to one day become an astronaut and go to Mars. I would also like to contribute to the further development of advanced propulsion technologies that will help us explore further into space.

What are your hobbies?

Breakdancing, travelling, teaching, learning, music, activism, hiking.

What do you enjoy most about engineering?

I enjoy the opportunity to continuously challenge myself and grow in many facets of life. Engineering has taught me how to look at the world through a critical lens, and how to use these judgments to think about ways to make the world a better place.

I also enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes when, after months of research, designing, planning, manufacturing, integrating, etc., a test finally goes as planned or some analysis finally looks as expected. This makes the mistakes, frustration, and long hours worth it. It is a great feeling to see theory implemented and working, especially when you have teammates to share this feeling with.

What is your favorite engineering experience?

My favorite engineering experience has been my senior design project. We started as nine strangers, and I ended up being great friends with many of my team members. There were many late nights where we would work until the morning even though we had other assignments or responsibilities to tend to. Our dedication to see our hard work come to life kept us going, and these late nights built really great friendships. It was great to finally be able to graduate alongside my senior design buddies after a really tough year.

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Thank you BOLD Center staff! You are all amazing, and we appreciate all of the work you do to help us reach our goals.

The University of Colorado Boulder is a tremendously supportive place, and there is no reason anyone who wants to study engineering here should not do so. There are many scholarship opportunities, networking opportunities, and supportive communities that make it possible to succeed as a student interested in STEM. If you are concerned about the financial aspects of studying engineering at CU Boulder, please get in touch with myself, the BOLD Center, or the University to talk about what resources are available. Many of these resources are not completely visible, and it takes some work to find them. I know it is possible, though, because I was able to find them and succeed here at CU Boulder, and you can do the same.

What are you up to now?

I am currently performing research in the Precision Laser Diagnostics Lab of the University of Colorado Boulder. I am working on developing a control system intended to command and/or stabilize the burn temperature and reactive species concentration in the combustion gases of a catalytic burner and film roller system used for flame treatment of polymer films by 3M.

What challenges have you faced in engineering? Any advice for freshmen?

I did not live on campus freshman year, and I was commuting from Denver every day on a forty minute bus ride. I would get to school just in time for class, and I would leave as soon as my last class was over. This was partly due to the fact that I did not want to spend a ton of money on food for dinner every day, but it was also due to the fact that I did not want to open myself up to new opportunities. I never made an effort to join student clubs, or really do much besides go to class and go to work. If I could change one thing about freshman year, I would look for clubs I was interested in, join them, make new friends, and have new experiences. I waited until junior year to do this, and I wish I hadn't. After I opened myself up to new experiences, my college experience became so much more fulfilling, and I had access to opportunities I would have never known about. I also made friends that I would have never met. I would suggest looking into any type of club that interests you, whether technical/professional or hobby.

Alan Sanchez, class of 2018, Aerospace Engineering Sciences