Interdisciplinary Meets International
Carrie Tam, E’22, was always interested in buildings. It seemed perfect that she discovered Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Architectural Studies, a combined major of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering, and the School of Architecture in the College of Arts, Media, and Design. “I’m really happy that Northeastern has this interdisciplinary degree,” Tam says. Students in this unique program receive both intense engineering training, along with exposure to architecture topics and design experiences.
Just like how her major is a mix of her interests, Tam also strived to make her university experience a mixture of rich experiences. She is a research assistant in the STReSS Laboratory (Structural Testing of Resilient and Sustainable Systems), which experiments with failure mechanisms of composite steel diaphragms to investigate the impacts of the structural resilience of a building. Tam also joined the Northeastern chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students and AerospaceNU, where she currently serves as the vice president and treasurer, respectively.
Tam started a team for the Solar Decathlon, a competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy. Tam and her team participated in the Design Challenge last year, a one-year endeavor where the students designed and presented ideas for a zero-energy building. This year, the group is competing in the two-year build challenge, which allows the participants to locally construct the building they designed.
Additionally, Tam did a co-op at Walker Consultants, where she worked as a structural engineering intern. “It was a valuable experience understanding how it felt to work in the field since academia is so much more theoretical,” Tam says. She is currently working part-time at E4H Architecture.
Northeastern has not only allowed Tam to pursue a variety of academic, extracurricular, and professional interests, but it has also provided her the opportunity to explore globally as well. Tam studied abroad in Sydney, Australia for six months during her first year at Northeastern and recently in Copenhagen, Denmark for 10 weeks.
In fact, it was Tam’s love of travel that was a big factor in her applying for the U.S. Fulbright Award. If she receives the honor, Tam will pursue an MS in Building Technology at Aalto University in Finland. “I want the pragmatism of engineering and creativity of architecture,” she says. “And Aalto University is known for their intersection of buildings and technology, science, and art.” Additionally, Tam received Northeastern’s Compass Award, which recognizes seniors who demonstrated a true dedication to a core set of values: leadership, volunteerism, academic integrity, and commitment to Northeastern.
While Tam waits to hear if she made it to the next stage of the Fulbright process, she’s currently focusing on her future and making the most of her time left in college. Tam is working on applications to other graduate schools in the U.S., where she is leaning towards studying structural engineering.
What advice does Tam have for students considering a potential career in engineering or architecture? “Just keep an open mind,” she says. “And if you find a good vibe, stick with it.”