The path from MIT undergraduate to MEng

October 30th, 2017MEng

By Sami Harper ’16, MEng ’17 I graduated in June 2017 from the MEng program in Environmental Engineering and Science, immediately after finishing my bachelor’s degree in the same department at MIT. This made my transition easier than most – I knew who to ask when I needed to make the printer work, who I was going to do research with, and all the good restaurants in the area. My professors still expected a lot, my peers were still excited to be working in this field, and the research was still as demanding and challenging as it had been during my undergraduate years. As a graduate student in CEE, I worked in the Parsons Lab, the home of the Environmental Engineers (Infrastructure and materials engineers are in the Pierce Lab across campus). Here, I found a workplace and a community that felt like a new version of the home I was used to as an undergraduate. I worked on problem sets and take home exams, chatted with friends, discussed research, watched science-y internet videos, and wrote my thesis all from the comfort of the lab. Adventures away from my workspace were always exciting – classes that I truly wanted to take, meetings with my advisor, making chai lattes in the kitchen, or running to Clover for a chickpea pita. My master's research was about increasing irrigation efficiency by pairing existing infrastructure for precision irrigation with a different model for applying irrigation. I worked with Dennis McLaughlin, whose research group focuses [...]

By Sami Harper ’16, MEng ’17

I graduated in June 2017 from the MEng program in Environmental Engineering and Science, immediately after finishing my bachelor’s degree in the same department at MIT. This made my transition easier than most – I knew who to ask when I needed to make the printer work, who I was going to do research with, and all the good restaurants in the area. My professors still expected a lot, my peers were still excited to be working in this field, and the research was still as demanding and challenging as it had been during my undergraduate years.

As a graduate student in CEE, I worked in the Parsons Lab, the home of the Environmental Engineers (Infrastructure and materials engineers are in the Pierce Lab across campus). Here, I found a workplace and a community that felt like a new version of the home I was used to as an undergraduate. I worked on problem sets and take home exams, chatted with friends, discussed research, watched science-y internet videos, and wrote my thesis all from the comfort of the lab. Adventures away from my workspace were always exciting – classes that I truly wanted to take, meetings with my advisor, making chai lattes in the kitchen, or running to Clover for a chickpea pita.

My master’s research was about increasing irrigation efficiency by pairing existing infrastructure for precision irrigation with a different model for applying irrigation. I worked with Dennis McLaughlin, whose research group focuses on the ways that agriculture can be optimized for the coming generations. Every meeting gave me a new challenge to overcome, and every deadline brought a twinge of panic, but I made it through. Now, after a few late nights, I have a thesis that I am proud of and that I hope some future student will be able to use as a building block for their work.

My favorite MEng class was 1.72 (Groundwater Hydrology) with Professor Charley Harvey. He spent many lectures explaining real-world applications of the topics we learned in class. For instance, we discussed how the switch from surface water to groundwater in Bangladesh led to Arsenic contamination of the drinking water, and how small crabs (crabs!) create macropores that can change the conductivity in some aquifers that totally change how the water moves in the system.

I was also able to take classes outside of CEE to broaden my coursework from just engineering into the human aspects of environmental engineering projects. I elected to take a class in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning on Navigating Power and Politics in Water and Sanitation Planning. This class taught me a lot about the inherently political nature of getting safe drinking water to those without access in all parts of the world. It was incredibly valuable for me to get an interdisciplinary academic experience while still working in my area of interest.

The MEng can feel like a short time, but you can make the most out of it with your choice of classes and professors if you know what you want to learn and achieve in those 9 months.

Outside of academics, the CEE community truly wants students to feel welcome and included. The buildings each have TGIF happy hours once a month, graduate students eat lunch together in the Parsons kitchen, and there is also a fall retreat into the New Hampshire Mountains just as the leaves are changing color. It’s a great community to work in.

I know I will use the technical skills and methodology that MIT has taught me, but it also taught me the value of working with smart, capable people and choosing to work on something you care deeply about.

Samantha “Sami” Harper is a recent graduate of the MIT MEng program, where she focused on environmental science and engineering. She also has a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. Questions for Sami, or about the MEng program, can be emailed to cee-admissions@mit.edu.

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3 Reasons to Apply to the MIT CEE MEng Program

October 30th, 2017MEng

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Masters of Engineering (MEng) degree program is a professional-oriented graduate program that consists of fast-paced coursework and significant engagement with a real world engineering projects, preparing graduates for a professional career path or further graduate studies. It’s a nine month program with opportunities for individualized tracks in CEE. Here, recent MEng graduate AJ Unander (MEng ’17) provides an insider’s point of view to the program and gives his top three reasons to apply to the program. It’s a personalized program: There were only 16 of us in the entire MEng class, which made the program very personalized and not formulaic. Each of us was guided by one of our three main professors (Caitlin Mueller, Gordana Herning and John Ochsendorf) to develop our own interests further. Meanwhile, we had a ton of flexibility when it came to classes. Generally, we took three classes in the fall, one in the spring, completed a practical design project each semester, and focused on our theses in the spring.The class subjects ranged from classics like Mechanics and Design of Concrete Structures (1.541) and Design of Streel Structures (1.582), to unique ones like Computational Structural Design and Optimization (1.575) and Historic Structures (1.574). While they were all challenging classes, I was able to choose the topics that I desired to know more about, which made them feel opportunistic rather than burdensome. It’s a community: Being such a small group allowed us to truly bond as an MEng class. We all took [...]

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Masters of Engineering (MEng) degree program is a professional-oriented graduate program that consists of fast-paced coursework and significant engagement with a real world engineering projects, preparing graduates for a professional career path or further graduate studies. It’s a nine month program with opportunities for individualized tracks in CEE.

Here, recent MEng graduate AJ Unander (MEng ’17) provides an insider’s point of view to the program and gives his top three reasons to apply to the program.

  1. It’s a personalized program: There were only 16 of us in the entire MEng class, which made the program very personalized and not formulaic. Each of us was guided by one of our three main professors (Caitlin Mueller, Gordana Herning and John Ochsendorf) to develop our own interests further. Meanwhile, we had a ton of flexibility when it came to classes. Generally, we took three classes in the fall, one in the spring, completed a practical design project each semester, and focused on our theses in the spring.The class subjects ranged from classics like Mechanics and Design of Concrete Structures (1.541) and Design of Streel Structures (1.582), to unique ones like Computational Structural Design and Optimization (1.575) and Historic Structures (1.574). While they were all challenging classes, I was able to choose the topics that I desired to know more about, which made them feel opportunistic rather than burdensome.
  1. It’s a community: Being such a small group allowed us to truly bond as an MEng class. We all took classes together, and the design projects consisted exclusively of the 16 of us working to design a roof structure and a tall building on Friday afternoons. We regularly had potlucks, went to talks in other departments, played soccer year round, went to happy hours and collaborated on almost all of the assignments. MIT has a stigma for being an extremely competitive and cutthroat environment, but that is not what I found in the CEE department and I’m happy to call each of the 16 my friend today.
  1. It’s a career-focused degree: A huge benefit of this program is the professors’ connections to industry professionals. This program is meant for those who want to get out into the field and start being a professional engineer as soon as possible. As such, landing a job after graduation was on my mind from the start and the professors facilitated that to a great degree.

Professors brought in friends and colleagues who were working at firms like SOM, Thornton Tomasetti, Schlaich-Bergermann, Silman and others, who would present about their own projects and then critique our design projects to teach us about how real world projects are done. These seminars were invaluable and gave us all connections to pursue for employment post-graduation.

AJ Unander completed the MEng program in 2017 with a focus in structural engineering. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 with a bachelor of science in Civil Engineering. Questions for AJ, or about the MEng program, can be emailed to cee-admissions@mit.edu.

More information, including a link to the application, can be found here.

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CEE Rising Stars Workshop brings distinguished early-career women to campus

October 26th, 20172017 News in Brief

On October 12 and 13, CEE hosted 20 distinguished women for the second CEE Rising Stars Workshop to provide insight into careers in academia. The event featured faculty panels, research presentations, networking sessions and campus tours. Read more on MIT News.

On October 12 and 13, CEE hosted 20 distinguished women for the second CEE Rising Stars Workshop to provide insight into careers in academia. The event featured faculty panels, research presentations, networking sessions and campus tours. Read more on MIT News.

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Professor Elfatih Eltahir participates on expert panel at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health

October 25th, 20172017 News in Brief

On October 23, Breene M. Kerr Professor Elfatih Eltahir spoke on a panel about the impact of climate change on malaria at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Eltahir discussed his research into the various variables involved in the spread of malaria and the creation of models for predicting future transmission of the disease. Read more here.

On October 23, Breene M. Kerr Professor Elfatih Eltahir spoke on a panel about the impact of climate change on malaria at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Eltahir discussed his research into the various variables involved in the spread of malaria and the creation of models for predicting future transmission of the disease. Read more here.

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Research from Professor Oral Buyukozturk uses discarded plastic water bottles to make stronger concrete

October 25th, 20172017 News in Brief

New research from Professor Oral Buyukozturk and research scientist Kunal Kupwade-Patil shows that mixing discarded plastic bottles, in the form of flakes exposed to harmless irradiation, with cement paste can make stronger concrete. The project began as an undergraduate project and was conducted with researchers from the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. The paper was published in the journal Waste Management. Read more on MIT News.

New research from Professor Oral Buyukozturk and research scientist Kunal Kupwade-Patil shows that mixing discarded plastic bottles, in the form of flakes exposed to harmless irradiation, with cement paste can make stronger concrete. The project began as an undergraduate project and was conducted with researchers from the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. The paper was published in the journal Waste Management. Read more on MIT News.

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Graduate Admissions 2017: Q&A with Graduate Officer Jesse Kroll

October 25th, 2017Admissions

Applying to graduate school is one of the most exciting times of an academic’s career. Each university has a different feel, program, and experience. Even at MIT CEE, we have various program ranging from the 9-month Masters of Engineering (MEng) to the Masters of Science and PhD programs in multiple research areas. The graduate admissions portal is now open, so we sat down with Graduate Officer Jesse Kroll to discuss some best practices and tips for applying to CEE’s graduate programs. What do faculty typically look for in an application? When reviewing applications, faculty take a holistic look at each application and components of the applications. Broadly, graduate admissions boards look at your resume/CV, transcript, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement, which is commonly referred to as a “statement of purpose.” What should be included in a statement of purpose? The statement serves to help get your application into the right hands, so faculty with interests that align with yours or with a similar expertise can evaluate your application. Your statement is where you should talk about your skills, experiences, interests, and ultimate goals. Before writing your statement, research specific professors and projects and see what applies to your skillset the most. Be sure to talk about how the program aligns with your interests. The statement should be one to one-and-a-half pages in length and be well written. You want to invest time into writing it, and it should be as specific as possible. The statement is [...]

Applying to graduate school is one of the most exciting times of an academic’s career. Each university has a different feel, program, and experience. Even at MIT CEE, we have various program ranging from the 9-month Masters of Engineering (MEng) to the Masters of Science and PhD programs in multiple research areas.

The graduate admissions portal is now open, so we sat down with Graduate Officer Jesse Kroll to discuss some best practices and tips for applying to CEE’s graduate programs.

What do faculty typically look for in an application?

When reviewing applications, faculty take a holistic look at each application and components of the applications. Broadly, graduate admissions boards look at your resume/CV, transcript, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and your personal statement, which is commonly referred to as a “statement of purpose.”

What should be included in a statement of purpose?

The statement serves to help get your application into the right hands, so faculty with interests that align with yours or with a similar expertise can evaluate your application. Your statement is where you should talk about your skills, experiences, interests, and ultimate goals.

Before writing your statement, research specific professors and projects and see what applies to your skillset the most. Be sure to talk about how the program aligns with your interests. The statement should be one to one-and-a-half pages in length and be well written. You want to invest time into writing it, and it should be as specific as possible.

The statement is also where you should also go into detail about the research projects you have worked on. Especially if you are applying to a research-based degree, use the statement as an opportunity to emphasize your ability to conduct research, and include the type of research that you want to do (i.e. do you prefer fieldwork or lab work?).

Finally, make sure to customize your statement for each school that you apply to, and be sure to proof read each statement that you send out. You don’t want to be talking about applying to Berkeley in an application to MIT!

How important are undergraduate grades for graduate school?

Grades do matter, especially in courses that are related to your area of study. If you had a rough term or a low grade, do not ignore this. Use your statement as a chance to address that, and even put a positive spin on the situation if possible.

What are the average GRE scores for MIT CEE graduate programs?

We get this question a lot. Quantitative tends to be the one area that most engineering programs focus on. At MIT, most successful applicants score within the 90th percentile. I would advise undergraduate student to take the GRE while you’re still in school, even if you plan to take time off between undergrad and grad school. You’re better equipped to take the GRE while you’re a student, and scores are valid for 5 years.

Who should write letters of recommendation? How important are they to the application?

Letters of Recommendation are really important to applications. They lend credibility to your application and offer a unique opportunity for faculty to hear from people that have experience working with you.

Academic references are best for MIT CEE graduate programs, especially if they have worked with you closely and can speak to your characteristics or research ability.* I would suggest you give the person writing your recommendation at least two weeks (if not more) to write the letter.

It is also helpful to provide your references with your statement of purpose, and even some talking points about you that should be included in your references. Lastly, be sure to send a follow-up thank you email to your references, and to update them when you get accepted!

*Note that if you are applying for the LGO program, you must also have a professional reference.

 

For more information about the MIT CEE graduate programs, please register for our CEE Graduate Information Session webinar on November 28, 2017 at 10 am EST.

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