Lauren Santullo, senior Civil Engineering major, did not always know that she wanted to be an engineer. However, she knew that she was interested in engineering and when she decided to take some classes TCNJ, she realized it was the right path for her.
“I did not fully realize that I wanted to study engineering until I tried it out at TCNJ,” she admits. “The people here, ASCE, and SWE, really helped me see how important and fun engineering was during my freshman year.”
Lauren is actively involved with many organizations on campus. She has been a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers since freshman year, and was the president in 2016. She is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, Catholic Campus Ministry, and was also involved with the Society of Women Engineers and Humanitarian Engineering as a freshman and sophomore. Although she is involved with many organizations and has a full course load as a Civil engineering major, she spent her 2015 spring semester studying abroad in Ireland.
Lauren has been awarded nine impressive scholarships, including American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey Scholarship, American Institute of Steel Construction Education Foundation Scholarship, American Institute of Steel Construction/Technical Committee on Structural Shapes Scholarship and American Society of Highway Engineers of North/Central Jersey Scholarship, among others.
After graduation, she plans on pursuing a Master’s and PhD degree in structural engineering, and has received funding offers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Tech and Lehigh University. She is still in the process of deciding which school she wants to attend, but hopes to use her advanced degree(s) to teach collegiate engineering or design solutions to complex problems.
Lauren says that TCNJ has given her many chances to grow as a person and learn more about the engineering profession she will be joining soon. She says that gaining technical knowledge through challenging projects and working effectively with others in an academic setting was helpful, but seeing real-life engineering applications through the professional societies TCNJ supports has been even more helpful. “Through experiences like studying abroad in Ireland and attending conferences, which I could not have been able to do without the support of the people at TCNJ, I have learned more about the world and became more confident in my choices,” she says. “Also, by participating in MUSE and helping with faculty research, I was an attractive applicant for graduate school.”
When asked who or what inspired her to become an engineer, Lauren credits her family and a few classes she took in high school. One particularly strong source of inspiration for her was her participation in the Soap Box Derby. The event includes building a gravity-driven car then racing it against other 8 to 18-year-old kids. “My paternal grandfather, who I did not get a chance to meet, ran a separate soap box derby event when my dad and his siblings were younger,” Lauren says. “My dad, maternal grandfather (“Opa”), and I built a car when I was 10, and I ended up winning the race in New Brunswick that year. But the whole experience was really fun, and I enjoyed helping build the car.”
Also, her mom was a computer programmer, and Lauren says she encouraged her to try out some of the more technical classes in high school, while her dad recommended she apply as an engineering student to college. In high school, she had some really good math and physics teachers (she notes that one of whom is a TCNJ alum), who helped her realize how interesting the applications of math and mechanics were.
As for advice to future potential female engineers, Lauren recommends trying engineering out by taking classes, doing STEM projects/competitions, or just looking for ways to improve the tools you use in your daily life. Those might help you get a taste of engineering, and you can decide if you want to do more. Engineering is such a broad field, Lauren says, that there’s bound to be something that has applications for what you’re interested in. For example, future engineers who may think they’re interested in the design process could help build sets for the school play.
Lauren remembers hearing a talk by Gabie Figueroa, a member of a national women’s hockey team who also works as an engineer supervising construction on an ice rink complex in NYC. “At the same conference I heard Gabie speak at, there was also a discussion on how diverse ideas and backgrounds can help us find unique solutions to new problems,” she says. “So your experiences and non-engineering interests are also super important, and there’s not one type of engineering student/engineer.”