Architectural Engineering
Photo: Alex Olivas
Alex Olivas
Graduation: Fall 2013

Why Architectural Engineering?

I've always loved building things ever since I was a little kid messing around in my backyard. The passion and excitement I experienced after building a mud castle is much like what I feel after completing a building design today. I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to experiencing that feeling and accomplish two goals at once: build better and more efficient buildings for the world to progress, and remember the good old days of creating random projects in my backyard.

Advice for undeclared students: If you're good at something, take advantage of that and strengthen it by pursuing it more. There is also nothing wrong with taking on a new challenge to see if you like it or not, as I did with undergraduate research. I never really thought I would be involved with research until I gave it a shot. Once I did, it opened my eyes up to a whole new world of opportunity!

Finding Your Major

Initial career dream: I chose Architectural Engineering from the time I applied on and luckily have not had a change in heart.

Majors declared: Architectural Engineering

Influences: My parents are always a huge influence in everything I try to accomplish. The decision on what I would major in was no exception to that. I have always wanted to design my parents' dream home and be able to support them after retirement.

Turning point: Honestly, when I first applied for ArchE I had an idea that it was what I wanted to do, but wasn't 100% sure. I knew I loved new buildings and was good at math, but that was about all I knew about what I wanted my future to hold, career-wise. I applied for it, gave it a shot, and fell in love with it! All in all, I went with my gut.

The Highlights

Favorite professor: Gregory Brooks

Favorite advisor/staff member: Dr. Raissa Ferron

Most surprising class: Building Information Modeling

Most rewarding class: Integrated Design

Best thing about your major: ArchE major is a smaller group than all other engineering majors at UT. It is also not a major offered at most universities, giving it an exclusive edge. This also made our small group like a second family, especially on those late nights in the studio.

Reality Check

Hours spent studying: Many! To be honest.

Most challenging class: Integrated Design

Most surprising thing about your major: Architectural Engineering has many career paths to choose from, as most engineering majors probably do, but this major can show you most of the design parameters to a building. I was really surprised how vast the range of opportunities for you can become by being an engineer.

One roadbump: When I was taking my integrated design course I faced one of the biggest challenges during my time at UT.
Integrated Design is the senior project design course for us ArchE majors, and it is the class that everyone dreads due to its work load. Nonetheless, just about everyone passes the class, so don't fear facing this challenge!

This class is designed to be a six-person team project. The team is given a set of blueprints and must design three aspects of a building: project management, mechanical, and structural. The latter is known to be the toughest due to the work load being larger than the other team members. The six-man team splits up into partners and they tackle the challenge together and collaborate throughout the semester, then everyone graduates happily at the end.
Unfortunately for me, my partner was unable to continue attending school early in the semester. That left me to be a one-man team on the structural design. This was an intense semester, I must say, but in the end I learned twice as much as I probably would've originally. Therefore, I named this course the one I gained/learned the most from.

Outside the Classroom

Clubs and organizations: I was involved with SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), Pi Sigma Pi Minority Organization, Architectural Engineering Institute, Architectural Engineering Honor Society, Intramural Soccer, and community service with Project 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Internships and research: With the Texas Undergraduate Research Experience (TREX), I worked on a research project known as Bioinspired Earthen Masonry, under the supervision of Dr. Raissa Ferron. Bioinspired Earthen Masonry involved the idea of strengthening Compressed Earth Blocks with microorganisms. I also did a part-time internship for Architectural Wall Systems (AWS) where I learned to analyze the design of curtain wall systems.

Career interests: My undergraduate research experience inspired me to pursue my master's degree in Construction Materials. This year, 2014, is my first year as a master's student at UT, but I am currently performing research at NIST in Gaithersburg, Maryland (30 mins outside of D.C.) This research will be the basis of my master's thesis which I hope to present and defend in fall 2015. From that point I will either continue on to pursue my doctorate degree in this field of interest, or go out to the private industry for a couple years to gain some more experience.

Recommended Resources
  • SHPE ( Student Organization )
    This organization has so many events, and networking opportunities. Please take advantage of them! Plus, free food at meetings! :)
  • Online Writing Lab ( Website )
    This is an excellent writing-style and reference citing help website!
  • Austin BIM Group ( Industry Organization )
    If you are interested in construction and structures, and love new technology this is the the perfect group for you to join. I wish I would have done so earlier in my college career!
  • Space Jam ( Movie )
    Can't forget to have fun! Space Jam is a classic and is one of my favorite movies of all time! If you haven't seen it already, your missing out. :)