Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inside Scoop from an Engineering School Tour Guide


For the last two years, I have led tours of Penn Engineering, or as some of us call it “Penngineering.” Maybe you’ve seen me drag nervous high schoolers and their nervous parents through the Engineering Quad, or maybe you’ve been on one of my tours! I love guiding tours and answering questions of prospective students. I joined the Advancing Women in Engineering Board to help improve Penn Engineering by giving advice (for what its worth) to younger female students and plan useful and fun events for women in engineering.  I’ve had tours with two people and I’ve had tours with more than thirty people and I hear a lot of the same questions. I wanted to take the chance to answer some of these frequently asked questions here!

What programs are offered here?
There are six engineering departments: Bioengineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Computer Science Engineering, Electrical and Systems Engineering, Material Science Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Within these different departments, there are different majors that are either Bachelor of Science in Engineering, BSE, or Bachelor of Applied Science, BAS, degrees. Bachelor of Science in Engineering degrees have more required engineering/major specific coursework and are accredited engineering programs while Bachelor of Applied Science allow you to take a more flexible engineering schedule. For a complete list check out: http://www.seas.upenn.edu/undergraduate/degrees/index.php

What’s M&T? How do I apply for M&T?
            M&T Program is the Management and Technology Program. Students enrolled in this program take coursework in Engineering and in Wharton (Penn’s undergraduate business school). Some students get out in four years, others it takes longer, but you take all the courses at the same time.  For more information: http://www.upenn.edu/fisher/index.html

Can you manage pre-med and BSE in Bioengineering?
As a Bioengineering major, many of my friends are interested in pursuing a degree in medicine. While I have decided to wait to apply to medical school, many of my senior friends have been admitted to medical schools already! The bioengineering BAS and BSE degrees both overlap significantly with pre-med coursework. You will just have to take organic chemistry I, II, laboratory, and an extra English course.

I know the job market is tough these days. Does anyone have jobs here?
Almost everyone I know in Engineering has plans for after graduation, which is quite different than my friends in the College of Arts and Sciences. Many people use On Campus Recruiting and Career Services to find summer jobs and jobs for after graduation. Penn Engineering puts on its own Career Fairs for engineering specific positions. In addition to traditional industry engineering jobs, there are plenty of opportunities such as graduate school, research, consulting, and finance that you should look into once you’re here. Check out this link to surveys about what people do after Penn: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/reports.html

What’s the class size like?
It depends on what year you are. Freshman year, class sizes are larger as you are laying the groundwork for upper level engineering coursework with courses such as physics, chemistry, and math. These courses are often shared with students in the College of Arts and Sciences, although there are some engineering specific sections. These courses can range from fifty to over one hundred students. Each of these courses has a smaller recitation section of ten to fifteen students so that individual questions can be answered. As classes become major specific, the class size is smaller and you will get to know your professors very well.

Can you do anything else besides work as an engineer?
I get this question all the time. Everyone I know does something besides just homework. Time management is something that you will get good at as an engineer, as engineers definitely have the most amount of work and arguably the most numbers of class time per week out of the Wharton, College of Arts and Sciences, and Nursing students. I was in an a cappella group, on the AWE Board, a member of a community service organization, and in a sorority during my four years here.

Do people do research as undergrads and how do they get into that?
Tons of engineers participate in research as undergraduates. You can do research in any department at Penn whether its engineering or the medical school or the biology department.  CURF, the Center for Undergraduate Research, has lists of research teams and laboratories at Penn as well as contact information. I always encourage people to read through some of the research blurbs and see what sparks your interest. Also, if the lab you are interested in cannot pay you, then try an independent study! If you can identify a topic and come up with a research proposal, you can try to count your research as a course for a semester. Here’s the link to the CURF website if you’re interested: http://www.upenn.edu/curf/

Is there an engineering dorm?
There is no engineering specific dorm, but a lot of engineers choose to live at Hill because it’s across the street from the Engineering Quad. There is also a Science and Technology Wing (STWING) in Kings Court-English House if you are interested in living around engineers and other science nerds like me. Check out STWING here: http://www.stwing.upenn.edu/

How many hours of sleep do you get?
As a freshman, I think I got 2 hours of sleep total, but that was because I was so excited to be here! There are certain semesters when life gets very busy and you will only get about five-six hours a night on average. Early classes and late nights of work can interrupt your sleep cycle. But now that I am a senior, I am sleeping at least eight hours every night!

Penn Engineering has been a wonderful, challenging environment for me. I hope this blog post has answered a few of the questions you may have had about Penn Engineering. Hope to see you on a tour soon! 

More questions for Catherine?  Contact her at awe@seas.upenn.edu!

1 comment:

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