Civil engineering major and cross country team captain Sarah Welsh-Huggins ’12 (Columbus, Ohio) discusses studying in Spain, her research on earthquake engineering, and helping others achieve their goals.
What do you enjoy about your major?
I chose Lafayette because I wanted the chance to study abroad as an engineer. It can be difficult to find math and science classes in study abroad programs, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to spend a semester in Madrid.
I was first drawn to engineering because of its ability to apply math and science to make a difference in people’s lives. In the past two years, my classes have become increasingly project-based, which simulates the types of problems we — as future engineers — will face in the real world. This allows me to take my technical engineering knowledge and learn how to implement it in the wider world.
One class that every Lafayette student should try to take is…
Any Geology class! Our geology department is a hidden gem (no pun intended) of excellent teachers and fascinating subjects. I took Environmental Geology last spring and loved it. I wish that I had more free electives to try other geo courses.
What was your most unique academic experience at Lafayette?
This past summer, along with 10 other undergraduates from around the country, I obtained a research internship through the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center. This is a multi-disciplinary research organization that studies how performance-based earthquake engineering can be used to mitigate and prepare for the hazards posed by seismic events. My work was conducted at the University of Washington in Seattle where I undertook a study of the disaster resilience of maritime ports. As a result of my involvement with PEER, I was selected at the end of the summer to attend a week-long workshop to witness testing on the world’s largest shake table in Kobe, Japan. When I look back at this summer, I see not the closing of my Lafayette chapter, but the beginning of the rest of my life.
Do you have any post-graduation plans?
I hope to attend graduate school next fall to pursue a master’s degree in structural or earthquake engineering. I envision my future in engineering as a humanitarian approach, rooted in both engineering and the social sciences. My goal is to work in developing countries prone to natural disasters, helping improve the structural performance of infrastructure and better organizing pre- and post-disaster coordination between engineers, policymakers, and citizens.
What goals have the cross country team set for this season?
We are a team that increases in strength throughout each season. At the beginning of the semester, we made our team goals to improve our personal-best times over the course of the season and to remain as injury-free as possible.
What leadership roles can a captain assume in an “individual” sport like cross country?
Cross country is a unique sport: although no one else can run your race for you, it can be difficult to run well without the mental and physical support of your teammates. As co-captain of the team, I try to keep my teammates focused on our goals, to encourage them during workouts and outside of practice and to be a supportive friend and leader. I love running and I focus on helping my teammates cultivate their love of our sport. As is true for athletes in all sports, when we are passionate about what we do, we will work harder to achieve our goals.
What reality show would you have the best chance of winning?
The Amazing Race: I love traveling and adventures, and I would be willing to take on any bizarre challenge that they might throw at me!
What song/band/album is most likely to be playing on your iPod?
I don’t have an iPod, but I listen to a lot of Pandora Radio when I’m working. My top stations include Sara Bareilles, the Corrs, and (of course) Broadway show tunes.
What movie can you quote word-for-word?
The Princess Bride! Best. Movie. Ever.
Who is most famous person you have ever met?
As strange as this sounds, I met the actor who plays Dean Thomas, one of the supporting roles in the Harry Potter films, on a student walking tour in Seville, Spain. I wish that I could say I’d met Harry Potter himself, but sadly, no such luck…
Celebrity Doppelganger: Sandra Bullock (maybe?)
Signature Dance Move: The Sprinkler
Team-Given Nickname: Not a nickname, just an adjective: “Funky!” (A reference to my crazy sense of fashion)
Favorite Cartoon Character: Do “Calvin and Hobbes” count?
Words to Live By: Worry less, live more.