Profiles: Young Engineers

Profiles: Young Engineers

Name: Carlos Garza, of Edinburg, Texas;
Designation: Engineering Intern.
Employer: Melden & Hunt, Inc.
Education: B.S. and M.E. Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University. Major Job Responsibilities or Projects: environmental site assessments and impact studies; water, wastewater, and solid waste project planning and management; irrigation systems design; wetlands assessment and soil analysis; and stormwater pollution abatement.
NSPE Affiliations: NSPE Legislative & Governmental Affairs Committee; NSPE Communications Task Force; PEI Young Engineer Advisory Council; and Texas Society of Professional Engineers, Rio Grande Valley Chapter.

Q. Your upcoming schedule includes taking the PE licensing exam in October. How are you preparing for the exam, and what advice would you give to a young engineer interested in pursuing licensure?

A. I signed up for the PE readiness course offered by NSPE through the MGI Management Institute, and I've obtained various books and searched the Internet for possible study materials. I'm also reviewing my graduate school textbooks and reacquainting myself with these materials. In addition, I'm perusing my office's reference library, searching for any other pertinent information that might be available. I have also queried other engineers who have recently taken the exam, seeking more guidance on how they prepared for the exam or how they wished they had.

My advice to young engineers interested in pursuing licensure is to first look at their state licensing laws and requirements. Once they have familiarized themselves with these, they should keep a journal of all their work. This will become their most powerful tool in documenting the experience requirement of the licensure process and save time and a great deal of effort in remembering what they did since starting their engineering careers. Another piece of advice is to discuss their plans for licensure with their employers, past and present, keeping communications open.

Q. You are also pursuing licensure as a professional geologist. Would you encourage other young engineers to consider dual licensure? A. Licensure as a professional geologist is something new in Texas, and my pursuit of this licensure was both a personal decision and one encouraged by my employer, Melden & Hunt Inc. My agricultural engineering background, previous work experience, and my interest in the soil sciences sparked my interest in seeking licensure. I strongly encourage those qualified individuals to seek additional licensure in whatever fields of practice might interest them. I regularly work with engineers who are licensed under other disciplines and they, too, encourage professional growth in these areas.

Q. As a relatively new member of NSPE's Legislative & Government Affairs Committee, what role do you expect to play? Do you see more young engineers taking an interest in politics?

A. I do see more young engineers taking an interest in political issues due to ever-increasing environmental and public safety concerns. My basic opinion is that NSPE has many different opportunities to offer, but people must be willing to explore them and apply their talent. For me, the political arena is one of extreme importance. Many engineers don't realize the impact that political actions have on their practice and publicly funded projects and initiatives. As a member of the Society's L&GA Committee, I want to get involved with several subcommittees addressing renewable resources and environmental issues. I plan on learning from the more experienced committee members and using their guidance in furthering the Society's legislative goals. I also aim to get more involved with the NSPE Political Action Committee and encourage all engineers to do the same.

Q. Have your bilingual skills (Spanish and English) helped your engineering career development in any way? Would you encourage other young engineers to develop bilingual abilities?

A. Having lived in Mexico and being bilingual not only influenced my decision to become an engineer but have immensely shaped my engineering career. I have seen the need for adequate sanitation and management of our natural resources, allowing me to better comprehend the socioeconomic conditions in the border regions of the U.S. and Mexico. The ability to communicate in two languages has been an irreplaceable tool that enables me to get involved in projects both in the U.S. and internationally.

I strongly recommend for everyone to develop some bilingual skills. The business world has relatively "shrunk" due to the expansion of technological advances. From our offices, we can do business with anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as we have common communications media. The ability to communicate with others in various languages will only enhance our opportunities to mutually benefit from shared intellectual knowledge.

Q. Early in your career, when you worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, how did you apply your engineering background?

A. At the USDA Agricultural Extension Service, I was part of an aerial application research team that examined various aspects of what is commonly referred to as "crop dusting." The team worked in controlled environments such as a wind tunnel for determining the reduction of a plane's vortices, which affect the deposition of chemical particles. We also worked on ultra low-volume formulation studies for maximizing chemical applications while minimizing application rates. Through this experience, I was fortunate enough to work on eradication programs for rabies and the boll weevil. I also had the opportunity to work with manufacturers of agricultural equipment to develop safer and more efficient protocols.

Q. Your personal background reflects experience in animal husbandry, particularly horses, and rodeos. Is this something you learned while growing up? Did it influence your career decision?

A. My family has been involved in farming and ranching for many years, and they always encouraged me to continue this practice. I believe that animal husbandry is a great tool for helping kids to develop a sense of responsibility and confidence in making decisions affecting animals and others. That is what naturally led me to agricultural engineering. Texas A&M University's Agricultural Engineering Department does an excellent job of merging curricula from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering.

At the university, I worked with academic advisors in developing a curriculum path that allowed me to explore other academic departments, while adhering to the requirements of my degree. Consequently, I pursued studies in soil science, animal science, toxicology, and biochemistry. I encourage everyone to explore their interests and develop activities that will occasionally allow them to step out of their engineering role. I believe that in the end, these activities allow all engineers to become "more complete" in being able to serve the public in a greater capacity.