Thursday, September 8, 2016

Me and Civil Engineering: New to TI:GER

A funny series of events landed me as the first civil engineering PhD student in the TI:GER program, and I could not be happier with the way things have turned out. My name is Chloe Johansen, and I am a first year TI:GER PhD student studying the ways different civil infrastructure systems depend on each other and how to make these systems more resilient.

I believe imposter syndrome is prevalent among female engineers.. In short, it is a feeling that you somehow lucked into getting where you are. As a freshman, the fact that I wouldn’t be able to handle being an engineer was embedded in me, even though it is what I wanted to be.  I cycled through three different majors my first three years of college trying to figure out what else I could be good at and enjoy. I started as a pre-physical therapy major, realized that was not for me, changed to biology, realized that also was not for me, and tried out environmental science. Nope. Then finally, in my third year, I admitted to myself that I could handle an engineering course load after getting a rare A in physics. Also, I admitted that I would do it in two and a half years since I didn’t want to be an undergrad forever. At the end of five years, I realized my passion for research in a field that I am passionate about and decided a PhD was for me.

Through choosing and refining a research topic with my advisor, Dr. Iris Tien, I have discovered the potential for impact that much academic research can have on our built environment. I have also discovered the struggle for many academics to translate their research into terms that stakeholders and decision makers understand and will take action on. Last year, I read an article discussing both the lack of and great need for innovation in our infrastructure systems. I realized that my research had the potential to address this issue and started to look into the TI:GER program. I went to an info session and talked with Margi and Marie after. I learned that they had never had a civil engineering student in the program and was even more driven to apply and push for innovation in my field.

I started the TI:GER program a few weeks ago, and can no longer convince myself that luck has gotten me to where I am today. It is through hard work and great mentors that I have earned a spot in the TI:GER program at Georgia Tech. I look forward to the opportunity of gaining more mentors and incorporating much needed innovation into a field that I care about!

Chloe Johansen
TI:GER Class of 2018