From left: Carlos Weiler, Stephanie Gustavsson and Kira Zeider.
Undergrads talk about their first semester as CHEE majors
Tell us a little about yourself and where you are from.
Stephanie: I’m a Swedish citizen and from an American point of view I would classify myself as a nontraditional student. I started college at Santa Monica College in Los Angeles when I was 22, which is later than most of my American friends. I spent my time off school working and travelling, going on adventures, and gaining valuable life experience. Mostly I had fun.
Carlos: I’m a sophomore dual majoring in chemical engineering and environmental engineering, with a minor in Spanish. I am a diehard Wildcat, born and raised in Tucson. I’m in the Tau Beta Pi honor society and involved with other clubs on campus. I volunteer at the local animal shelter when I can and in my spare time I like to run and play soccer.
Kira: I have lived in Tucson my whole life. I have a three-year-old Australian shepherd named Indy and two five-year-old cats, Midnight and Sahara, who happen to be sisters. I have been a vegetarian my whole life, and vegan since last August. I love unwinding by watching “Survivor,” “American Horror Story” and “Once Upon a Time.”
Why did you choose chemical engineering or environmental engineering as your major?
Stephanie: I chose engineering because I want to pursue an innovative and challenging career where I can be a part of a movement working to improve something. That something ends up changing all the time for me since I’m naturally curious and open to new ideas. That is also why I chose chemical engineering. The versatility seems endless. I have no doubts about finding a job where I feel passionate and can thrive.
Carlos: I’m pursuing both degrees. As to why, that’s a good question. I declared chemical engineering after my first semester due to the intro to engineering course that all the freshmen took. I decided to pick up environmental engineering after I got back from my study abroad experience. Studying abroad set me back a year for CHEE, so that gave me more time to take more classes, which is why I chose to add another degree.
Kira: I am double majoring in chemical and environmental engineering. Originally, I had declared environmental engineering because, though I liked the appeal of chemical engineering, I wanted something more geared toward the environment. I have been passionate about the environment ever since I gave a presentation in fourth grade about global warming and read Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” However, after talking with [academic adviser] Michelle Wik for the first time, I saw how the two degrees overlapped and made my decision. If I have passion for both degrees and can get it done with a little extra effort, why not do both?
How did your first semester go?
Stephanie: The first few weeks were intense. The workload seemed higher at the beginning compared to now. It takes some time to get used to a new class, but now at the end I feel more settled. I ended up dropping one class and making space for research since I wanted to find a way of using and practicing all the skills I learn in class.
Carlos: The first semester of CHEE went better than expected, thankfully. I enjoyed the class and learned a lot about being a chemical engineer. I am confident with my decision to pursue my CHEE degree and find a career in the field.
Kira: It went pretty well. I loved learning new equations and ways to solve problems. It was definitely challenging and I did let grades get the better of my emotions, but I made a lot of friends that I will keep seeing along my journey, and acquired a wealth of knowledge. It’s crazy thinking about how much I knew last semester compared to this semester, and I’m really proud of where I am now in terms of curriculum and chemical and environmental engineering knowledge.
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
Stephanie: Time! Everything came at once: career fairs, job interviews, research opportunities, club involvement, etc. I guess I hadn’t realized how much there is outside of just being a student and managing your classes. It was a challenge for me to decide my priorities, but I finally ended up with a good balance.
Describe the most important thing you learned this semester.
Carlos: The most important thing we learned was that accumulation equals input plus generation minus output minus consumption, which is the basis for every chemical engineering problem.
Kira: Take breaks. I constantly pushed myself too hard -- always thinking, “just one more assignment” -- and ended up mentally and physically exhausted. There is always more homework to do, but if you try to do too much at once, you’ll take longer to get the assignments done and they won’t be your best work. Instead, set time limits, prepare small rewards, and plan breaks to encourage you along the way. You’ll definitely need it for the first couple of weeks.
How would you describe the department’s culture?
Carlos: The department’s culture is heavily group-oriented and collaborative, which I love. It makes it easier to talk to professors, counselors and other students. Everyone knows the kind of work that is required and most everyone is willing to help each other with questions.
Any advice for sophomores joining the department next year?
Carlos: Don’t be intimidated by the workload. Make as many friends as you can in the class so that, if you see anybody in the third floor of the Science-Engineering Library, you can work with them. In addition, make use of your professors and the academic adviser, Michelle Wik. You won’t regret it.
Kira: Go to the Science-Engineering Library. Go even if you aren’t working on CHEE homework. Whenever I have free time and want to get work done, I go to the third floor of the SEL. Because so many students from CHEE use that space, it feels comfortable and familiar. By just striking up a conversation with the person next to you, you can end up laughing with them for 30 minutes and walk out with a new friend (or at least someone to turn to in class for help).
Stephanie: If you are a transfer student, like I am, you will come into the sophomore year in the CHEE program, but you will technically be a junior. You will already have finished most of the classes that your classmates are currently taking. There are pros and cons to this, but in general I don’t think it matters too much. My advice would be to not take too many “hard” classes your first semester to get a feel for how everything works and how much you can handle.