Maria Podeta had the brains and the ambition to become a doctor—and that was the plan in high school. But when she was a sophomore in college Maria discovered something that interested her even more than medicine. That something was mechanical engineering.
“Engineering just fascinated me,” she said in an interview with Fast Forward. “[Today] I would just go back in time and tell myself: you’re going to be an engineer, don’t waste any time.”
Maria is currently pursuing her mechanical engineering degree from California State University, Los Angeles. For her research project, she is studying the Keystone Pipeline in California.
Pipelines, Maria explained, transport materials from place to place. These materials might include petroleum, natural gas, or even irrigation water. Pipelines often travel through areas where there are people, plants, and wildlife. That’s why it is important that they are engineered to be as safe as possible. If a pipeline were to crack or burst, it could cause harm to the surrounding environment. Maria and other engineers are looking for ways to improve the way pipelines are designed and built. That way, they can be as risk-free as possible.
Maria told Fast Forward that after graduating from college, she wants to work in the professional world for a year or two. Then she’ll go back to school to earn her Master’s degree in mechanical engineering. She has already earned a college internship with the Southern California Gas Company. She says the internship is giving her with real-world job experience that will help to prepare her for her future career.
In her spare time, she is also an active member of the Society of Women Engineers. She says she is passionate about educating young people—especially young women—about the amazing opportunities that are waiting for them in math- and science-based careers.
“[Engineering] is such a broad category. You can do anything with it,” she said. “It is something you could look into and continue to grow in.”
Check out Maria’s video! Then, be sure to keep following Fast Forward You’ll hear the stories of other students who discovered their passion for transportation careers. And you might even find a career that inspires you—just like engineering did for Maria.