Build Your Own Bridge to the Future
Building upon a love of math, Prairie View A&M University senior La Sasha Walker chose to major in civil engineering, specializing in structural engineering. She narrowed her focus to the field of transportation because she wanted to design large projects, such as bridges. She also realized that, since transportation engineers are needed everywhere, transportation could be her ticket to traveling the world.
Engineering was a natural fit for Walker. Her older sister was an engineer, and Walker, herself, showed an inclination toward mechanical things even from a young age.
“[As a child] I took apart a lot of broken objects around the house and tried to fix them,” she said. “Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but it was a fun experience.”
Still, it took some time and research before Walker was positive that engineering was right for her.
“I love math and science, so I did a web search to see what careers were available,” she said. “Engineering stuck out as the best for me.”
She continued her internet research to learn more about what engineers do on a daily basis, and which colleges had excellent engineering programs. She soon enrolled at Prairie View A&M University. Her interest in transportation grew during college as she participated in extracurricular events like the Summer Transportation Institute, an experience which allowed her to witness first-hand what it meant to be a transportation engineer.
It was at the institute that Walker met her adviser, Dr. Judy Perkins, head of the civil engineering department at A&M, who further guided her to choose transportation.
Perkins encouraged Walker to get involved with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship program. As a member of NSBE, Walker has attended conferences around the country, which have opened her eyes to a variety of transportation career options. The Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship program also affords great opportunities by providing funding for students to pursue transportation-related research.
Walker stressed the importance of getting involved outside of the classroom.
“I think these [opportunities] were the ones that helped me the most. [I] got to network with different students … and people from around the world.”
As an Eisenhower fellow, Walker is planning and implementing research projects that have real-world implications. The main goal of her team’s research is to extend the life of roads and bridges by preventing cracks. These cracks, she explained, cause roads and bridges to deteriorate more quickly, making it necessary for them to be replaced. Next semester, she plans to begin testing cement materials to learn how to make cement last longer.
Nearing graduation, Walker is ready to start her adventure. She said she looks forward to 20 years from now, driving over a bridge that she designed, and saying to her children, “Look, kids! I built that.”