There’s More To Engineering Than Just The Numbers

Hi, friends. My name is Benjamin, and I’m a sophomore (now rising junior!) at Pitt with a major in chemical engineering and a certificate in Latin American studies.

Leaving high school, all I knew was that I had a knack for math and science, and a passion for learning languages. I didn’t know how or if those would mix and manifest themselves in my college career. Fast forward two years, and I think it’s safe to say that Pitt and the Honors College have given me the freedom to explore all three.

Unlike most other engineering programs, Pitt has all first-year engineering students come in as undeclared, take general STEM coursework, and declare a major at the end of their second semester. This appealed to me as someone who wasn’t sure which program would be the best fit. Regardless of how dead-set you may be on any one major, having a year to really think through your options can open up opportunities you might have otherwise missed.

With that extra time (and, consequently, space in my schedule) I chose a Spanish course as my fall elective. The next natural step was to join Spanish Club. Through that club, I learned about Pitt’s Center for Latin American studies, which sends students abroad each summer to conduct independent research. I traveled to Manizales, Colombia the following May to study sustainability in the local coffee industry. Now, I act as a translator for our school’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, and will be leading conversation nights for Spanish Club this upcoming fall. My professor from the Colombia project was so awesome that I’ve decided to pick up another language and take her again in “Portuguese for Spanish Speakers” this fall, as well.

At Pitt, you can follow your interests as far down the rabbit hole as you want to go. For me, that has meant approaching a hard skills degree from a soft skills perspective. I want to be an engineer who can think beyond the numbers and realize their implications, whether in the R&D domain, a process engineering role, or any other kind of position (I haven’t decided yet, and that’s okay.)

I lived in Honors housing for both freshman and sophomore year. It was an unforgettable experience, to be surrounded by peers who will encourage you and challenge you to do hard things. There’s a common stereotype out there that engineers only hang out with other engineers. Honors housing allowed me to do the complete opposite of that. There’s another one that engineers aren’t good communicators. That one… well, it’s partially true. I can tell you, however, that if you’re willing to think unconventionally, integrate yourself into our campus/city, and travel down a rabbit hole that is uniquely your own, there is no doubt you will come out a better scholar and person because of it.

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