Ask an Engineer
Many USU STARS! GEAR UP scholars are interested in the field of engineering, which focuses on science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines, and structures. However, some scholars might be unaware of the career paths, daily life, and skill set that it takes to become one of the world’s many engineers. We had the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Wade Goodridge, an engineering professor at Utah State University who teaches statics, the first mechanics course required by many engineering students. Dr. Goodridge, who has two engineering Bachelor of Science degrees, as well as a Masters and PhD in civil engineering, gave us the scoop on the education of an engineer.
Dr. Goodridge explained that there are many engineering programs across the nation to choose from, depending on your interests. Civil, mechanical, biological, electrical, environmental, computer, aerospace, aeronautical, petroleum, fire protection, ocean, coastal, system, electrical, computer, forensic, chemical, architectural, manufacturing, marine, materials, nuclear, structural, transportation, welding, corrosion, geo-technical, hydraulic, industrial, mining, naval, and safety are just a few of the options that prospective engineers have when choosing a specialty.
Although there are dozens of engineering options to choose from, Utah State offers five programs. Dr. Goodridge briefly explained each of the disciplines that include civil, environmental, biological, mechanical, and electrical engineering. Civil engineering focuses on macro-sized projects that impact large populations, designing things such as bridges, buildings, canals, highways and others. Environmental engineers work on the prevention of pollutants, soil remediation, air contaminant removal, water quality, and many other areas. Biological engineering may focus on areas such as food production, chemical production in reactors, prosthesis development, and tissue work, but expands to various aspects of biology. Mechanical engineers work on a plethora of smaller-scale objects that includes diverse types of projects. Mechanical engineers focus on analyzing and designing systems with motion. Some of these projects could include designing mechanical linkages, heat dissipation structures, ram and pistons, and gas pipelines. Electrical engineers may work on power distribution, fire alarm systems, signal processing, circuitry design, and other similar areas. Dr. Goodridge pointed out that many of these disciplines overlap with one another.
Dr. Goodridge explained that the Utah State engineering program is unique from other programs throughout the state because the department offers pre-professional courses that take up the first two years of engineering coursework. The department faculty research better teaching methods in hopes to improve understanding and retention among engineering students.
Dr. Goodridge explains that career options are very good for engineers. “...Engineering and engineering technology fields are robust enough to always have good job options and longevity,” he describes. Throughout the United States, there are approximately 1.6 million engineering jobs that pay an average of $42 per hour.
When asked what kind of skill set it takes to be an engineer, Dr. Goodridge explained that besides having a good foundation in math and science, organizational skills are crucial. “You need a growth mindset, which relates to persistence,” said Dr. Goodridge, “You should work well with others and possess some solid emotional intelligence.”
Dr. Goodridge advises all prospective engineering students to read Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” because the degree is rigorous and can sometimes be discouraging. “I think all can [receive an engineering degree]”said Dr. Goodridge, “but I caveat that by saying you should develop a growth mindset concerning your capacity to learn.”
USU STARS! GEAR UP would like to thank Dr. Wade Goodridge for his time and efforts in providing us insight on the academic life of an engineer.