Why did you choose engineering at CU Boulder?
I grew up as an only child and I've had a lot of attention from my parents. I became incredibly dependent on them. As a result, I decided to go off to another country to study engineering as a challenge to grow myself. At school in my matric year (senior year), I was made Prefect of the Environmental Sector and this experience enhanced my interest in conservation and human health. I saw that CU has a great Environmental Engineering Program and I've always been a huge fan of environmental sustainability (I am a 100% tree hugger) so it was perfect. I'm minoring in Energy Engineering and I love it!
What does the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag mean to you?
When I introduce myself as an engineering student, I get a couple of eye-raises followed by a huge "Wow" and then some questions regarding the level of difficulty of all my courses. #Ilooklikeanengineer means that I am able to maturely explain and educate people who associate an engineering student with someone of a certain appearance, race or gender. I've learnt in college that the capability of one's classmates and their contributions to one's persistence is phenomenal. Engineering is not meant to be only an independent task. Sometimes, being dependent on others produces far greater results than what you could have achieved alone. Particularly, collaboration with people who are different than you will also challenge you to accomplish a whole lot more. When I graduate, I'd like to look back on all the wonderful people who have supported me, and all my classmates who were with me on this journey. We all learned to work as a team and we all supported each other along the way.
What are three things that make you unique?
- I'm Asian-African. I was born in China and moved to South Africa when I was four. I love SA and that's where I call home. Consequently, I speak English, Mandarin, and Afrikaans.
- I went to a private all girls British School in South Africa so I have a South African British accent. Sadly, it's fading away. This has only been the beginning of my third year in the U.S. and already, I'm rolling my "r's" and forgetting to say the "t" in the middle of a word! But I'm proud to say that I've perfected the word "water" in an American accent.
- I love Jesus and I'm involved in a fun, loving, admirable and overall spectacular ministry Christian Challenge! God has been kind and used my ministry to grow and challenge me in many ways I can't encounter in the classroom.
What are your career goals?
I love environmental sustainability, particularly, in areas of renewable energy and air pollution control. I would thus like to either work or conduct research focusing on either of these areas one day. I love knowing that I can use my engineering degree to contribute to a small part of where I will be. I believe God gave us this world to take care of and it's comforting for me to see some collaboration on this issue right now.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less"--CS Lewis
What are your hobbies?
When I'm not reading, I'll be running, biking, swimming or volunteering in a community. I also love cleaning and cooking, as my grandmother always sternly reminded me that a strong woman is one who is able to present herself outside to the world and inside to her family.
What do you enjoy most about engineering?
I love to see that I can use my creativity in a way that makes sense to me. I love knowing that I can fail hard right now (in a test, a class, or forgetting an APPM WebAssign), only to learn from my mistakes and pick myself back up, succeeding later on. I love celebrating the successes of my classmates and friends as they slowly achieve their goals along the way. I love working different people of different cultural backgrounds forming new, better and more efficient solutions.
What is your favorite engineering experience?
I have had internship and research experiences. However, my favourite engineering experience comes from the summer of 2017, when I took off a few days off work to build myself wooden 'lofts' for my bed. I realised in the shop that I have had close to 0 experience with most of the tools around. Engineering students may pride our ability to solve problems based on theoretical calculations but when it came to hands-on work, experience is what matters. I was thoroughly humbled by Mark Eaton, who took the time to teach me different functions of the different machines, and never impatient as I flooded him with questions.
Do you have any advice for a student who is just starting their engineering journey?
Fall of 2016, after a bike accident, I broke my writing arm and as a result, I had to drop Physics 2 with a medical "W". Although I had only 13 credits that semester, I was still a Resident Advisor in Kittredge and part of the leadership team in Christian Challenge. School felt less and less of a priority while other responsibilities consumed homework and study times. I also had to attend Physical Therapy two to three times a week, which felt like basically adding another class to my schedule. On top of this, struggled a lot with homesickness last year, as I had not seen my family for two years. I developed a severe anxiety disorder as a consequent, that kept me from performing optimally.My once great GPA experienced a huge drop and in Spring, I still felt like I was trying to catch up on everything I had missed.
Last year was a great learning curve for me. In college, I realized that GPA, among other "scores" may be important but it's not what determines your entire identity. Engineering will be your career but your contributions to society will be ultimately dependent on how you react during tough seasons in life. To many of us right now, college may seem like the only aspect of life, but once this is over, a new chapter will begin. And it won't be easy. Life will push us down and prevent us from performing over and over again. The most successful of us, are the individuals who maintain an open mind during these seasons and use the rather unpleasant circumstances to change and grow themselves stronger.
Lisa Wang, Environmental Engineering, Class of 2019