We have reached the end of Jumbo Month. Class of 2024, I hope you all enjoyed meeting current students, sitting in on lectures, and experiencing our campus culture, all virtually! To finish out the “Why Tufts Engineering” series, I am featuring my interview with Will Edmonds, a mechanical engineer and recent graduate of the Class of 2019. Will shares with us lessons he learned in his favorite classes (liberal arts & engineering!) and how the engineering curriculum prepared him for professional opportunities.
Welcome, Will! What sparked your interest in engineering? Did you already have an engineering discipline in mind when you came to Tufts?
My high school never offered “engineering classes” per se but I was able to join the robotics club, take woodworking classes, and rigorous science classes. Despite not being dedicated engineering courses, these activities gave me a glimpse into what engineering could be and laid a solid foundation with which to start freshman year of engineering. I actually went into college expecting to study Environmental Engineering but quickly realized that my interests were more mechanically inclined: energy, robotics, jet engines, practically anything that moved. I found it hard to choose a discipline until I spoke with professors and read course descriptions, which is how most of my peers did it too.
How was your first semester in the School of Engineering? Do you have any advice for incoming first-year students?
It was both a sprint and a marathon in the best possible way. Course selection was definitely stressful, but my orientation leaders did a great job of answering any questions I had and assuaging my fears about the process. Also, professors are usually accommodating of students who want to join a class late. My EN 1 was called Engineering in Disasters and it was fascinating and engaging. We studied four different disasters (both man-made and natural, think Fukushima nuclear meltdown) and analyzed the response of engineers to each. It provided a much-appreciated glimpse into the world of professional engineers and what each discipline focuses on. Plus, it gave me some great stories to share at Thanksgiving. I’d say one struggle was the hectic schedule of first semester. Classes are sporadic, clubs meet at odd hours, and there’s always an event going on. But that was also one of the aspects I most enjoyed!
That’s a very interesting EN1 class! (Discover other EN1 classes here) Engineering in Crisis, a similar class to Will’s, will be offered to students this fall!
What made you decide on mechanical engineering as your major?
It was a combination of speaking with professors at the majors’ fair, learning that mechanical engineers had their own workshop on campus, and realizing that you can pretty much work in any field with a mechanical engineering degree. I thought the timeline of choosing was a little stressful at first but once I learned you could switch majors quite easily for another semester or two, I appreciated having to think hard about my interests and goals early on.
What were some of your favorite courses at Tufts?
My top three classes were probably Intro to Computer Science (elective), Creative Writing (HASS), and Power Generation Engineering (concentration). I’d never taken a CS course before and it blew my mind. It was a ton of work, but I learned very applicable skills, met a ton of people through group projects and office hours, and eventually landed a teaching assistant job from it! I took creative writing in my senior year and it was a much-needed break from my other technical workload. Plus, I met some really interesting people outside of the SOE. Finally, power generation engineering was a fascinating overview of the engineering behind the electrical grid, renewable technologies, and the thermodynamics of traditional generators. It informed my choice of career and definitely helped me get my first job. I thought the structure of the program was definitely necessary to cover all aspects of mechanical engineering, but thoroughly appreciated the ability to take liberal arts courses.
Who were some of your favorite engineering professors?
My robotics professor and the department chair Chris Rogers was an amazing professor and role model/mentor. Also, Doug Matson was a very enthusiastic and passionate teacher who always got students excited about machines (plus he wore a Hawaiian shirt every day).
How would you describe the engineering community?
I may be biased but I think the engineers had the best community out of all majors. We all went through the same difficult classes in first year and learned to collaborate and set up support networks early on. This is a factor of knowing your major before A&S and the class sizes being quite small. You could always walk into the engineering labs or computer rooms and find some friendly classmates, older students, or even professors to help with your homework or project.
What were some of the professional opportunities you had as an undergraduate?
I was lucky enough to have two internships while in undergrad, one of which I found through Tufts’ online job portal. I also attended at least one networking event put on by the School of Engineering every semester and alumni of the school were very willing to offer advice via email or through informational phone calls.
After graduation, you entered a career in engineering consulting. What are some of the responsibilities you have in this job?
I’d always been interested in energy, but my Power Generation Engineering course grew my passion for it and introduced me to the finer details of the energy industry. Knowing I liked engineering topics but also working with people and diverse problems, I was attracted to the consulting industry. Through talking with professors and alumni I learned about Energy Service Companies like my current employer. I’m in the client management department which means I’m the first point of contact for any energy procurement or management issues that our clients have. I work with my company’s internal specialists to reduce energy usage and spending for large industrial customers. I also assist some companies with emissions tracking.
How did Tufts prepare you for your profession?
I didn’t take a single class on energy markets or contract negotiation, but my engineering degree definitely taught me how to work hard, master new topics very quickly, and break down large complex projects into manageable sections of work.
That’s a wrap for our Engineering Alumni series! A big thank you to Tufts alums for sharing with us your favorite classes, engineering moments, and advice for first-year students. New Jumbos, I hope these blogs introduced you to the driven, kind, and supportive spirit of the Tufts engineering community. Get excited for the next four years!
Check out our interviews with other engineering alums here: