Civil Engineering Offers The Opportunities Kira Is Looking For

"I’d like to use my degree to make cities more liveable and sustainable."

Kira Zulauf

What got you interested in engineering?

In school I always leaned towards math and physics over things like social studies and biology. 

As a kid I enjoyed building things and I was always interested in bridges – I grew up near downtown Portland and I remember being fascinated watching the cable-stayed bridge Tilikum Crossing go up. 

Questions about engineering

Why did you choose UBC?

I chose UBC because it ticked a lot of the boxes I had in mind about a university. It had a good internationally recognized engineering program. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I knew I wanted to stay in the area. And, of course, Vancouver is a beautiful city and very livable, and the proximity to the mountains is a big plus – I also snowboard, so there was the advantage of being so close to Whistler and the local mountains. 

UBC Vancouver Campus

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Did you consider other program specializations or was civil engineering always your top choice?

I was originally thinking of mechanical engineering, but I realized that I prefer the courses and projects where I can really visualize the spatial aspects of what we’re studying as opposed to getting into the complicated physics behind something. 

Civil engineering is also very broad, so there’s a lot of flexibility with what jobs you can do after graduating. 

Civil engineering

What are some of the highlights of your engineering degree so far?

I really liked a term project in fluid mechanics where we had to design a pump and pipe system that involved data collection plus the design part. 

We needed to consider a lot of different variables. It was a long and complicated project, but I came away with a much better understanding of what it takes to design a large-scale system like that.

Another impactful project was writing a proposal to design a tiny house, which encompassed a lot of things that engineers do – from creating a project vision and schedule to doing a community consultation with stakeholders, designing using AutoCAD, doing a rough cost estimate for the entire design process, and writing a final technical report. 

I’m also enjoying a structural course where we’re designing and constructing a bridge. 

We’re taking what we’ve learned about structural mechanics and using structural analysis software to design and test the capacity of a small bridge that we’re building out of wood.

Skills needed to succeed as an engineer

Do you have any specific goals for your degree or a sense of where you want to go with civil engineering?

I’m honestly just hoping to get as much experience in different areas as I can to help me figure out the specialty of civil that I’d like to go into when I graduate. 

Based on the courses we’ve had so far I’m leaning towards structural engineering. But co-op will help me to experience the types of jobs that are out there, so at this point I’m keeping my options open.

At a broader level, I’d like to use my degree to make cities more liveable and sustainable. And given our location in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, I’m very aware of the value engineers can bring to make cities and infrastructure more resilient in the face of an earthquake.


Why co-op is helpful for students

Any advice for students who are thinking about engineering?

Take advantage of the advisors! The civil engineering advisors are very knowledgeable, and I wish I’d gone to speak to them earlier in first year. 

They helped me figure out a courseload schedule that worked for me and has helped me feel more balanced.

Two students standing in an outdoor stairwell observing the project site.

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers are in high demand, working for example as project managers or design consultants, across all industrial sectors and government. Focus your creativity and help build tomorrow’s world.

Civil Engineering

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