Meena Sundrum knew Carnegie Mellon University engineering students had incredible experiences. What she didn’t know as a first-year student in the fall of 2020 was how, in the middle of a pandemic, she too would be able to make new friends, indulge her many outside interests, and manage majors in mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy.
“I couldn’t imagine it would all happen for me, but it’s so great that it did,” said Sundrum.
In her introductory mechanical engineering course, the classmates who worked with her on group projects are now good friends. Hands-on learning assignments—designing and 3D-printing a model of Hamerschlag Hall and later a teacup-size acrylic truss that could bear 40 pounds of weight—helped them form close bonds.
“We were so excited to see that our complex calculations yielded the results we predicted,” said Sundrum.
Joining Women in Mechanical Engineering paired her with club president Charlotte Andreasen, a devoted mentor who provided encouragement, support, and a winning reference. Andreasen recommended Sundrum for the summer internship that gave her real-world engineering policy experience. This summer she wrote a proposal to qualify CMU for new standards set forth by ABET, the science, computing, engineering, and technology accrediting organization.
COVID threw us into the deeper side of friendship, but we got through the tough times together and found out that no matter what challenges we faced, we were going to have great experiences here.Meena Sundrum, student, College of Engineering
And while the pandemic limited her options and confined her and her first-year roommates to their dorm room during their second semester, Sundrum says they were a continual source of amusement and inspiration.
“We would joke about how hard we were each working, but in such different ways. I would be struggling through a challenging math computation, while Olivia Luk was grappling with building a complex structure for a design course, and music major Gabriela Schwartz was practicing the trombone.
“COVID threw us into the deeper side of friendship, but we got through the tough times together and found out that no matter what challenges we faced, we were going to have great experiences here.”
Pictured above: Meena Sundrum with her roomates Olivia Luk and Gabriela Schwartz.