Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Reflections from a Senior

Last week I had the great pleasure of watching the 2012 Senior Design Project Competition, which is a series of presentations from the design winners from each of the six engineering departments at Penn.   My mind was totally blown when I was watching some of these presentations and in many cases, demos of really cool products.   I’ve been in Penn Engineering for four years, but I had never seen anything like these before.  Some design projects are extremely innovative.  The winning project this year was called “PVS: Pacemaker Verification System,” from a group of male and female electrical engineering students.  These students designed the hardware and circuitry for a model of a heart, which could be hooked up to a pacemaker to be able to study the effects of a pacemaker on the heart and vice versa.  A lot of the products have great potential for commercial success, and in fact, a handful of Penn Engineering grads each year are known to pursue their senior design projects as entrepreneurs.

To the prospective students who may be reading this, every Penn Engineering student is required to work on a design project their senior year.  To some, it feels like a requirement, but to others, it’s an opportunity to be creative and work on a project you’re passionate about and are 100% in charge of.  Senior design project requirements vary based on the major, but in essence, all senior design projects are innovative and viable product or process design.  The goal of most design projects is to make a product, but in my major specifically, CBE (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering), many of the projects are designs of chemical processes.

To give you some background on me, I’m a senior in CBE, and I’m getting ready to graduate and leave Penn in less than three weeks.  Saying that Penn has treated me well would be a vast understatement.  I’ve had an amazing four years at Penn, and there have definitely have been a few things that have shaped my experience.  The first would be the community within Penn Engineering.  Most Penn Engineers I’ve met are very friendly, helpful people who happen to be extremely bright and hard working.  Yes, engineering is a lot of work and yes, it’s challenging.  But don’t let that scare you out of a social life and extracurriculars!  Penn Engineers are involved in so many different things at Penn and in the Philadelphia community.  I myself am a singer in Counterparts, a co-ed jazz and pop a cappella group.  Whether or not you sing/dance/act, the performing arts shows at Penn are a lot of fun to attend each weekend.  I’ve also gone on three life changing community service trips through Alternate Spring Break, a service organization at Penn that you should check out.

Within the Penn Engineering community, I’m especially grateful to the amazing community of women that I’ve been so lucky to be a part of.  Before Penn officially started, I did the AWE Pre-Orientation (Pre-O) program.  It was a great way to meet and get to know other female engineers, many of whom I’m still friends with as a graduating senior.   Pre-O was also a great way to learn about Penn Engineering and all the different clubs within the Engineering Student Activities Council.  I loved AWE Pre-O so much that I applied for the Board, and I’ve been on the Board organizing AWE events ever since.  In addition, a counselor for AWE Pre-O told me about SWE, The Society of Women Engineers, and I decided to get involved by attending the first general body meeting.  I learned a lot as a Board member of SWE, especially as President last year.  SWE gave me a lot of career resources I’m so thankful for, and a SWE alumna actually helped me get my dream job!

Disclaimer:  Learning IS important, too, of course!  Don’t spend all your time doing extracurriculars and going out with friends.  A Penn education is too valuable to waste. But remember that it’s not only about the tests and problem sets; it’s about what you take away from Penn.  The knowledge and skills you’ll gain from the Penn Engineering curriculum as well as your classmates, mentors, and Professors that you’ll hopefully keep in touch with will be far more valuable to you than any high exam grade.

Okay, I’m finally done rambling about how much I love Penn Engineering, so thanks for reading!  To all the prospective Penn engineering students – if you decide to come to Penn, I’ll see you as an alumna!

[Sheetal Rajagopal, CBE 2012]

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