Engineering student athlete thrives both in and out of the classroom

Two male students stand on top of an outdoor podium in the first place location. Behind them are other competitiors, grass, a track and an acdemic building.

Jonathan Surdej (right) poses with a teammate after receiving the gold medal in shot put at the MAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Photo: UB Atheltics

By Peter Murphy

Published May 22, 2023

Jonathan Surdej recently won his sixth MAC title in shot put, and he will start the second internship of his college career in the coming months. Despite the demanding lifestyle, Surdej, a senior electrical engineering major, continues to find success in the classroom and the field.

“Jonathan’s commitment to hard work extends to his studies as an engineering major. ”
Kerry Collins-Gross, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Surdej won the Mid-American Conference (MAC) title in shot put at the MAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, May 12. This is his sixth consecutive title (three at the outdoor championships and three at the indoor championships). Having success as a student-athlete in STEM comes with its own set of challenges. The courseload is heavy and extracurriculars like internships are often part of a student’s experience that add to the academic workload. Surdej credits good time management as one of the reasons for his success.

“My first two years, I really struggled with school and track balance,” Surdej says. “Once I understood my limits, I excelled in both the classroom and the track. My GPA jumped and so did my shot put marks.”

Surdej’s professors were also a big reason for his success. They were understanding when he had to leave for track meets, and most were flexible if he had questions on any of the material he missed. Other faculty and staff have noticed Surdej’s success, as well.

“Jonathan’s commitment to hard work extends to his studies as an engineering major,” says Kerry Collins-Gross, assistant dean for undergraduate education in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “He maintains strong grades and gained internship experience last year at Encorus Group.”

Jonathan Surdej.

Electrical Engineering senior Jonathan Surdej. Photo: UB Athletics

Shot put is a passion for Surdej, but he did not start practicing the sport with the idea of becoming a shot put champion in mind. He joined the team during the spring of seventh grade because he wanted to get into shape for soccer, a fall sport. Surdej started out on the track and field team participating in some of the typical events.

“I learned that the only thing I hated more than running was running in a circle for hours,” Surdej says. “My coach at the time said, ‘why don’t you throw the shot put?’ From there, I fell in love with it and was invited to join the varsity team the next year.”

The sport he joined to stay in shape for soccer turned into a passion and shifted his lifestyle. A typical day for Surdej starts with breakfast at 5 a.m. before lifting weights at 6 a.m. After that, he gets ready for his classes and has a second breakfast. He gets his homework done in between classes and goes to practice at around 3 p.m. After practice, he heads home to have dinner, and he continues working on homework until he goes to bed at 9 p.m. Surdej does this five days a week with different lifts and different types of practices.

UB Athletics awarded Surdej with the Male Individual Moment of the Year award. The recognition is an important one, according to Surdej.

“It was an honor to win Male Individual Moment of the Year,” he says. “It really helps me feel like all the work I put into this sport and school is being recognized, and I’m very thankful to be a Bull.”

Surdej has one more year of academic and athletic eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he plans to both compete and finish his degree next year. After graduating, Surdej wants to work as an electrical engineer and continue his passion for shot put. “I want to coach and help the next generation of throwers,” he says.