Designing a Civil Engineering Career With Scholarships, Co-ops, and Campus Involvement

Catherine Yates,  E’25, is on track to a career in civil engineering and credits hard work, scholarships, two co-ops, and participation in student clubs for helping her achieve her goals.

Catherine Yates, E’25, civil engineering, is a believer in positive thinking. When she arrived at Northeastern three years ago, she was confident that if she worked hard and pursued opportunities like scholarships, co-ops, and campus involvement, she would successfully launch her career.

“I always told myself that if I am interested in it, I can try to get really good at it,” says Yates.

That attitude led Yates to apply for and receive the 2023 Francis M. Keville Scholarship, which is awarded annually to one Northeastern female student pursuing construction management. The scholarship is in memory of Francis Keville, a Northeastern graduate who served as head of construction for the MBTA.

“Jessica Ormsby, a co-op advisor, said I would be a good fit for this scholarship, and I thought it was such an amazing opportunity,” Yates says. “It is honestly such an honor.”

Yates will soon have two co-ops under her belt; the first was at DN Tanks, a maker of a prestressed concrete liquid storage tanks, and the second, currently underway, is at Jacobs, a global engineering services firm.

Her co-op experiences are not what she had in mind as a child. In elementary school, she wanted to be a journalist and pursued writing and literature with gusto. But she was also fascinated by science and math, and those pursuits eventually won her heart. “I loved solving problems and the thing about engineering is there is always a problem to solve,” Yates adds.

She spent her high school years at an international school in London because her family had relocated. She says Northeastern was well regarded at her high school and she knew of several graduates who had attended the university. Yates opted to follow their path with the hopes of beginning a journey to become a civil engineer.

When it came time to apply for her first co-op at Northeastern, she searched for companies working on large scale projects and landed an interview with DN Tanks. During the hiring process, she spent nearly three hours with department leaders from design, engineering, and construction, and learned valuable information about the business.

They put her at ease and made the interview a positive experience. “I realized that some of them had been Northeastern co-ops and they had such an appreciation for the co-op experience,” Yates says. “The first co-op can be scary, but the way they handled it was really comforting.”

Yates was exposed to various aspects of the design and construction process, from preparing drawings in AutoCAD, to working with the procurement team to determine quantities of materials for jobs. She says the highlight was when she assisted her manager on a project’s final design edits.

“I learned on that co-op that what I was doing actually mattered and had a tangible effect on the project,” Yates says.

Yates received a scholarship from DN Tanks, which the company presents to a co-op student each semester who has excelled at their work.

In January 2024, Yates began her second co-op at Jacobs in the structural engineering group and initially worked on a project that involved the demolition of a bridge and the design of a replacement structure. She drafted design elements for the new bridge using AutoCAD. She is currently working on drafting designs that will be used on a project with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She has discovered that she thrives on the communications within the group and says she could see herself one day in a client-facing job that would require communication skills and relationship building.

She feels the team, which, like DN Tanks, includes former Northeastern co-op students, makes an effort to support her. For example, they encouraged her to attend a Boston Society of Civil Engineers meeting that included a panel discussion on sustainable concrete. Yates prepared a summary report of the event and then presented it to her team at Jacobs.

Beyond co-ops, Yate’s role as president of the Kappa Kappa Gamma Eta Omicron Chapter has boosted her confidence. She joined in her first year because she wanted to build a network of dependable women who share her values. She recalls feeling nervous when she would speak up in the early days. Now she enjoys leading discussions and representing the group.

Yates is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honors Society, and Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honors Society. Participating in these groups has “allowed me to feel connected to other engineering students and has opened my eyes to how supportive the College of Engineering at Northeastern is,” Yates says.





Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering