Who Builds Big? | Career Info Index | Engineering Webography
Patricia Frayre is a Project Graduate Civil Engineer at Walter P. Moore, a
Texas-based consulting engineering firm. She has five years of experience in
civil engineering design and management.
Check out a structure that Patricia is working on: Harris County New Exposition Center, Houston, Texas
|(click for larger image)
I do general civil engineering -- that is,
site/land development. It includes anything from setting finished floor elevations
to grading sites to making sure all the utility (water and wastewater) lines function. In general, any development project that gets constructed has to have water, wastewater, and storm drainage capabilities. That's basically what I do as a graduate civil engineer.
|(click for larger image)
The New Harris County Exposition Center near the Astrodome. It's actually under construction now. We broke ground in June. It's scheduled to be finished by 2002. I'm proud of the project because it was a monster to design.
Everything. There is research on existing utilities -- you have to coordinate
with the different agencies that will be reviewing the designs and issuing
permits; making sure that everything works. Parking lots have to drain.
Pipes have to be sized accordingly. Most importantly, coordination with the
other disciplines like the MEPs (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing
engineers), structural engineers, and, of course, the architects has to
I would say it's mostly spent in the office, but once a project goes into
the construction administration phase, you have to go out in the field and
make sure that construction is being done per the design. I think
construction workers are still getting used to the fact that there are
female engineers out there. We still definitely need to have more women out
there representing engineers.
When I was in high school, there was an ex-student who came back to talk to
the class about her job as a NASA engineer. It was then that I decided I
wanted to be just like her. I started out at Texas A&M University with an
aerospace engineering major. The market was not good for aerospace
engineers. People were graduating with 4.0s and not getting jobs. I
decided to switch majors and study structures in the civil engineering
department. I figured I could get the same basic training, but with
different material properties.
I found out I really liked structures, which was the focus of my
undergraduate degree. I started my Master's degree in structural
engineering, but then decided to take this job as a civil engineer. I
really enjoy the fact we get to interact with the client. It's not so much
number crunching. There's some of that involved, but the majority of the
work is coordination between the different disciplines, making sure all
design guidelines have been followed, making sure all the different
governmental agency requirements have been met. I think it's a challenge.
The most fun thing about my job is seeing something you've designed being
constructed or people using the facilities after construction. Seeing a
clear site or something on site that gets torn down and replaced with new
construction is a very satisfying part of this job.
If they want to go into engineering or a science-related field, I would say
absorb as much knowledge as you can while you're in school, especially in the
mathematics courses. The formative years in middle school or high school
are the years that you need to be like a sponge and absorb as much
information and knowledge as you can.
I would say, you can! Look around. I'm part of an ASCE task committee on
diversity. We're working on programs that will stimulate an interest in
engineering. I would direct kids to Web sites like this one. All it takes
is to log on to the Internet, and you will see there are people like you.
There's everything from young to old, from white to African American, and
everything in between. There is no reason why anyone should say, "Well, I
don't know if I can do this. There's no one like me out there."
I don't know. I can't identify with that mentality. I was the first in my
family to get a higher education, and it's difficult for me to understand
why some people don't believe in their ability. I can see where it would be
harder, but I'm a strong believer in if there's a will, then there's a way.
You just have to apply yourself.
Yes, I guess you could say I had those kinds of influences. There was
always something going on in the neighborhood. You see things like
construction of houses or public utilities and you think, "I want to do
that," but not necessarily the actual labor. The background, however, makes
you think of what it would take to take it to a different level.
"E.I.T." stands for "Engineer-In-Training." When you graduate college, you take
an eight-hour exam, and if you pass it, then you become an E.I.T. You then have to
work for four years with a registered, professional engineer after which you
become eligible to take another exam to get your professional engineer's
license. That exam is another eight-hour exam. If you pass it, then you become
a registered, professional engineer. That's the next milestone in my
career. Right now, I'm working on my experience. Once I become a
professional engineer, there's really no stopping me.