The College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) is proud of its students’ commitment to research, study, and accomplishments in the classroom and beyond. Meet soon-to-be Ph.D. student, Caridad Estrada.

Estrada is a McNair Scholar and a DOE Fellow and has been accepted to Princeton University’s graduate Civil and Environmental Engineering program and was awarded its President’s Fellowship.

Caridad Estrada in lab

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering(CEE) offers Bachelor of Science programs in Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering, Master of Science programs in Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering, and doctoral degrees in Civil Engineering. Enrollment stands at more than 1,000 undergraduate students and about 150 graduate students, including over 80 doctoral students.FIU CEE students are getting a head-start on their engineering careers.

Name: Caridad Estrada
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Degree/major: Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering, starting Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Fall 23’

Why did you choose FIU CEC?
I knew I had to be strategic with my opportunities to accomplish my goals and doing research was imperative, FIU is an R1 research institution with, “very high research activity”. More than this, many faculty at FIU collaborate with the Department of Energy, which was another goal of mine.

Why did you choose your major?
While I carry a love for the physical sciences and mathematics, my passion lies where the earth sciences intersect with the laws that regulate our daily lives. I also maintain an interest in the bigger picture: what implications does our research have on the current policies and socio-economic environment in the world? With its emergent focus on organic contaminant remediation and wastewater management, I believe that environmental engineering provides the most effective platform to continue my education while seeking answers to the bigger picture.

Did you always want to be an engineer?
From a young age, I wanted to be an engineer. My grandfather is a mechanical engineer and worked for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority for the entirety of my childhood until retirement. He would often take me to work with him and explain to me the mechanics of the processes that occurred there, nurturing my curiosity for the profession. I would flip through textbooks from his study that he kept over the years, and I would spend my time tracing diagrams and designs. I did not only aspire to be an engineer, I was adamant it was the only profession I wanted and it never wavered.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be attending Princeton University to pursue a doctoral degree in Environmental Engineering, to acquire world-class knowledge, and work with faculty who are leaders in their respective fields. This degree will contribute to my career aspirations of becoming an R&D leader in the water treatment sector. I aim to develop more efficient and cleaner water treatment systems through the innovative use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve existing representations of key environmental processes.

What clubs, student organizations or extracurricular activities do you recommend or are you part of? Internships?
I have been a part of many great programs, such as the Department of Energy Fellows program at the Applied Research Center, an incredible opportunity for all FIU students (undergraduate and graduate) where you get real experience in the laboratory, and the McNair Scholars program created to help minority students achieve post-bacc success. Also, I was on the executive board of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers, both rewarding experiences and can provide excellent opportunities to all engineering students at FIU.

What has been the most challenging thing you’ve experienced as an engineering student (so far)?
The most challenging experience was balancing school, research and extracurricular activities. Pursuing my passions while also trying to stay competitive in a doctoral program became intense at times and I had to make many sacrifices to succeed.

What has been the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced as an engineering student (so far)?
Although the balance was challenging, being able to contribute to the FIU community through mentorship and outreach has been a rewarding experience that has shaped my career aspirations. My leadership experiences outside the laboratory have helped me become more adaptable, resilient, and strengthened my communication and collaboration skills, making me a strong, and dependable engineer. I look forward to continuing to represent this mission at Princeton.

Any advice to prospective students thinking of majoring in engineering?
Engineering can be a challenging curriculum however you don’t need to be a math whiz or an expert in the sciences. Taking breaks and staying consistent can help you master your classes but also preserve your mental health.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a student?
Let it be and let it go.

If you could have lunch/dinner with a famous engineering pioneer, who would it be? Why?
I would have lunch or dinner with William “Bill” Nye, an American mechanical engineer and inventor best known for his popular education show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” While he is best known for being a key character in classrooms nationwide, he is also lesser known for inventing the hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes when he was a Boeing employee. Bill Nye is a gifted scientific presenter who has allowed viewers to improve their understanding of otherwise complex scientific concepts and become a science advocate for influential campaigns. I aspire to become a skilled presenter like Bill for all audiences, not just other engineers or scientists. I believe, like Bill, that science education is essential for changes in policy and awareness of global crises.

When you’re not being an engineering student, what do you like to do?
I love traveling, hanging out with my friends and getting some good food. I also like to read and currently have a long list of novels to catch up on over the summer.

How do you think FIU prepared you for your admittance to Princeton? Would you like to share anything regarding your next chapter that you think is relevant and important?
FIU afforded me the opportunity to get a quality education while not sacrificing my diversity. My diverse perspective along with the global learning skills I learned through my time here has allowed me to become innovative in my approach to engineering challenges. This inspiration became the core of my application to Princeton University, and what will allow me to succeed in a new environment.