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MIT student blogger Becca H. '12

On Being an Upperclassman by Becca H. '12

Less than two years left

It’s hard to believe that I am now in the latter half of my college career. I am almost done with school, almost ready to go out into the real world. I remember thinking about how old college students seemed all throughout elementary, middle and even high school. I am now one of them. The past two years have been great, and I anticipate that the next two will as well, but for now I am enjoying myself in the moment, even with the copious amounts of work I have to complete.

I am thoroughly enjoying my junior year of college. The workload has increased substantially, but I have reached the point in my major where I am taking classes that are teaching me things that I will be using in my future career. It is a great feeling to realize that you know things that most people don’t; on the flip side, that also means it is harder to find people to ask for help.

Having less than two years left, I have starting freaking out a bit about needing to eventually find a real job and about knowing what I want to do. I can’t imagine how the seniors feel. I did recently discover the field that I think I want to work in—transportation planning. It is nice to know that there is something out there that I would really enjoy.

Transportation planning is a mix of civil engineering and urban planning, much to my friend Megan B.’s ’12 excitement (she is one of the few undergraduate Course 11 majors). A lot of people don’t realize that civil engineering encompasses anything beyond structural and geotechnical engineering, but transportation is definitely there, though not as much at the undergraduate level. I am taking my first transportation class, 1.252, this semester and loving it.

Recently I’ve started looking at companies I might want to intern with next summer. Even though the summer is a long ways away, I really want to make sure I get an internship with a company I would be interested in working with after I graduate. This is my last summer of my undergraduate career, and I want to make it count. I enjoyed my last two summers, and I learned something about myself and the work I want to do during each one, but this summer I want a taste of real work, not just research. I can’t believe it’s only October, and I’m already looking for a job!

Anyway, my classes are a lot of the reason I am enjoying this semester. I’m taking four classes, worth 54 units of credit:

1.035-Mechanics of Structures and Soils

This is the core of the junior fall Course 1 curriculum. It is a very fast-paced lecture and lab course that is generally covered in 2-3 semesters at many other schools. It is a follow-on from 1.050, which is structural mechanics, and then introduces soil mechanics.

I think my year in Course 1 baffles professors sometimes because the ~18 of us are generally very on top of things and very inquisitive. This means psets gets started when they are handed out and questions get asked before the night before the pset is due.

The other part of this class is a lab component. Some of the things we have done in lab include learning how to mix concrete, testing the failure limit of concrete cylinders, testing concrete beams and other similar things. We have tested lots of things to failure, which is always a lot of fun. The lab reports are a lot of work, more so than they should be given the number of units in the class, but the work seems useful.

1.252- Urban Transportation Planning

This is my favorite class this semester. It is a graduate course cross listed in course 1 and course 11</a<, which provides for an interesting mix of people. The professors are Fred Salvucci and Mikel Murga. Fred specializes in Boston, having lived within a 6-block radius his entire life, and Mikel specializes in Bilbao, in Spain, where is is from and spends half of his time.

One of my favorite things we have done in this class was a walking tour of Boston with Fred. He has had a hand in almost all the major transportation decisions in Boston over the past ~45 years, and so all of his stories have a personal component and he knows exactly how and why everything got done, what it took to stop bad ideas, and everything in between. We couldn’t go more than a couple of blocks without running into someone he knew.

Taking this grad class has made me want to go to grad school into order to learn more about things I’m really interested in. Grad classes are much more specific, and provide a lot more room for discussion and different backgrounds coming together. We’ve done two major projects so far, and I’m really looking forward to the last two.

2.96- Management in Engineering

What I’ve gathered from this class is that the point is basically to teach you how to read a financial report. We’ve gone over some other things, but that really seems to be one of the main points. I’m taking this class because I figured it would be useful in the future. I’m also taking it P/F though, because the stuff is kind of confusing and it isn’t the most exciting class. It also doesn’t count towards any requirements I have.

1.010- Uncertainty in Engineering

In other words, probability and statistics. It is interesting to see applications of probability to engineering, but we have talked a lot about waiting for buses so far. I’m not sure what I think of this class mostly because I just have a hard time with probability. It doesn’t really make sense to me. But overall, the class is okay, and I’m getting through.

3 responses to “On Being an Upperclassman”

  1. Elijah '11 says:

    Hey, I love transportation too! Tough decision though for whether to go into transportation for grad school, despite, as you said, taking few (as in no) transportation courses as an undergraduate, or to continue with structures. (I have all but settled on the latter.)

  2. Great post.

    (Forgot to close the tag after “I’m really looking forward to the last two.”

  3. leo says:

    love your post and thank you smile