‘The scale of the things I do astonishes me’
By Claudia Mederos
Engineering is the engine of prosperity, from steam power to electricity to lasers, to the transistor to the computer. The many disciplines in this career field allow engineers to improve people’s lives, clean up the air, protect the environment, clean wastewater, recycle, innovate new processes, develop new products, and basically help in the progress of humanity.
I have been a structural engineer since April 2021, and I am deeply in love with what I do. My previous experiences were all focused on research, and those experiences have only reinforced my passion for my search for improvement. I enjoy the challenges faced in structural problems, designing the solutions, and providing a building for the enhancement of a community.
I also am passionate about volunteering with children—specifically, students in underrepresented and low-income neighborhoods, who tend to be told how far they can reach. They do not hear “Reach for the stars” as often as others may. One day, for example, a young child told me she could not study engineering because she had been told she was not smart. Her words triggered several emotions in me, and on that day, I decided I would talk as often as possible about engineering and motivate young students to pursue this path. Over the course of years, I have volunteered in multiple cities to talk with children about pursuing their dreams. They do not need to be explicitly interested in engineering to comprehend how the world is theirs to take.
My love for structural engineering originates from the joy of creation. I love creating and learned this accidentally when my parents and I moved to a new country, and I started creating small decorative pieces for the new place to feel like home. The whole process of conceptualizing, planning, procuring, and finally building something puts me in a flow state (a form of meditation!). Watching the final output is amusing too, as sometimes it wows you beyond your expectations and sometimes it turns out to be a complete disaster. Nevertheless, the whole process of creating something from nothing is the most satisfying experience I have ever had, and I am fortunate that this can be applied to practically infinite possibilities in our lives.
Being a structural engineer, my passion for creation reaches its highest levels. I have the power to be the maker of possibly some of the largest man-made things on our planet—the structures. Starting from an idea in my mere 1260 cubic cm brain, translated into crude A4 hand sketches, converted to a simple analytical model for engineering and design, detailed to its deepest corners in large A2 drawings—and then constructed on site with dimensions as large as hundreds of meters, weights as high as thousands of tons, and lasting as long as 100 years!
The sheer scale of the things that I do still astonishes me every day. I almost feel godlike to be one of the creators of the modern world, but at the same time humbled to be responsible for the safety of so many lives.