Meredith Vaughn is a junior majoring in engineering from Greensboro, N.C. She is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta and is the treasurer for Women in STEM. She is also the student liaison for the engineering department, where she also works as a TA.
Did you come to Wake Forest with the express purpose of doing engineering?
I had wanted to go to Wake Forest for a while, and I thought I wanted to do applied mathematics. I found out about the engineering program around the time I was applying, and I just decided that I wanted to do engineering.
What specifically do you like about engineering?
I went to a performing arts high school, so I really like the creative thinking and creative problem-solving aspect that is required of someone who wants to be an engineer. I always enjoyed math and science; it’s like crossing those two sides of the mind, which I think is compelling, more so than just sitting around and running programs. It’s more applied and more creative.
You are the first person in the history of Wake Forest to declare a major in engineering, correct?
Yes — there actually is a story behind this. I went abroad the second semester of my sophomore year, so I had to take the sophomore-level classes in the fall. That allowed me to declare the major early because I had already taken all the prerequisites needed to declare. I was the first person to declare because I did it before I went abroad, before everyone else.
Are there a lot of women in the department?
The student body for engineering is over 40% female, and I believe a lot of our faculty are female as well. That’s something a lot of my professors never experienced in undergrad or even graduate school, so I think it’s a really special opportunity for younger women in STEM to experience female mentorship.
Is there any advice you would like to dole out to other Wake Forest students who are considering declaring a major in engineering?
Try to plan ahead as much as possible. That’s what I did. I wanted to go abroad, but I also wanted to make sure that all my years here as enjoyable as possible. The major is 75 credit hours; this includes the actual engineering classes you have to take, along with your basic sciences and math. So all that together is a large majority of the hours you can take here. On top of divisional classes, you don’t have a lot of leeway. So, you should try to get into the program early; knowing what you have to do and the timeline you have to do it in is super helpful.
Also, you should try to keep an open mind about the program and what you will get out of it. I came in thinking, “I’m going to be a biomedical engineer, that’s what I want to do.” And then going abroad changed me. I was exposed to a lot of architecture and art history in Venice, so I switched my path away from biomedical engineering to civil engineering, structural engineering and historical preservation. So, just keep an open mind and take the opportunities that come to you.
How do your love of engineering and its creative aspects diffuse into other activities you take part in here at Wake Forest?
I am applying for a Richter Scholarship to return to Venice. I have been offered an internship with Save Venice, an American nonprofit that hosts fundraisers to restore important pieces of art, architectural sites and buildings from Venice’s history. I am proposing to do my own exploration in Venice’s archives and on San Sebastiano Church, and I’m trying to develop my own proposition for restoration.
Basically, I am weighing artistic architectural integrity against the idea of a building being architecturally sound. I’m really interested in the balance between historical significance, modernism and making sure everything is a-okay.
Also, I’m in the a cappella group Innuendo, and the Set In The Groove Tap Club. I still love to do a ton of performing arts stuff. Music theory is math; all you’re doing is counting and making and finding patterns. The whole phenomenon of pitch and sound waves and making sure everybody is in tune with each other is really important to think about, too. It’s kind of a crossover with engineering.