Where are you from?
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to Staten Island, NY when I was 11.
Why did you choose UB?
I chose UB because it is a top SUNY school with a great engineering program and a lot of diversity. It is also eight hours from home which is a good distance.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I always knew I wanted to do engineering. I’ve always loved fixing and building things–I really thrive on doing things that are hands-on. In high school, I took part in a bridge competition and I got really excited about, and it got me thinking about civil engineering. Once I got to UB, I was drawn to civil engineering because it’s so hands-on–I get to be up and about.
What do you like most about engineering at UB?
All of the resources here! I’m grateful for clubs like the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE) and Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE), the extra support that’s offered in the small groups for our foundational classes, and resources like the tinkering lab.
What is your favorite place on campus?
Davis Hall for its beautiful architecture. I love being in the second-floor atrium on a sunny afternoon, watching a ray of sun come in.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a transportation project where we choose an intersection in Buffalo and then analyze it–for traffic flow, volume, peak hours, and pedestrian count. Our intersection is Main and Bailey where there’s a lot going on.
What else do you do on campus?
I’ve been a resident advisor for two years at Wilkeson Hall, where I advise about 40 students. I’m also active in organizations; I’m the programs chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and a member of ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) steel bridge team. I also did an engineering intramural project on over height bridge collision with Dr. Olewnik, which I got to present to various professional engineers, Association for Bridge Construction and Design and a local police station.
Last summer, I took part in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, where I learned how to conduct research, attended workshops, helped out with community service projects, toured local industry, and got to present my research at a conference. My favorite part of the whole experience was getting to talk to students in the STEP program.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
My summer research internship at LSAMP, led by assistant professor Negar Elhami-Khorasani and assistant professor Thomas Gernay from Johns Hopkins University to establish a Digitized fuel load surveying methodology using machine vision. The project was funded by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the final report is available on the Association's website. We were able to develop a methodology to collect data that helps structural engineers define the design fuel load (an essential parameter in structural fire engineering). It was really rewarding to get to apply knowledge I’d learned in the classroom.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about giving back, helping and educating younger generations. It’s really important to me to share what I learn with others.
What are your future plans?
I’d love to be in a leadership role, ideally working in engineering management, where I get to draw on my natural and learned leadership skills. I also want to own my own Civil Engineering firm.
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
Find mentorship early! Have an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do and find someone who is where you want to be in 5-10 years. Also, be confident in yourself. Don’t doubt yourself–trust yourself. And ask questions and seek help when you need it.
What are you looking forward to with the Watts Scholarship?
I look forward to creating a professional relationship with the donors and am hopeful for mentorship and guidance to help me in my future career.
Esther Saula received the Watts Scholarship from Watts Architecture and Engineering P.C. The scholarship is given to a junior majoring in civil, environmental, electrical or mechanical engineering who is in good academic standing. Preference is given to students historically underrepresented in higher education, and includes the opportunity to do a paid summer internship at the company.