Juan Alonso

Scholarship Status: Awarded NA
Scholarship Awarded: Achievement Scholarship
University: UCI
Date of Graduation: June 2018


Many in a profession or college major have a sincere passion for what they do, but the reasoning behind it is unique for each and every one of them. My passion for Civil Engineering begun many years ago through many experiences beginning with where I grew up, back in Northeast Los Angeles. As a young lad, I was always interested by Metro’s complex system of busses and trains. I was also very passionate at building popsicle stick bridges in middle school and working in the construction field with my father. All these experiences, among many more played a key role in my genuine passion for Civil Engineering. My three main interests in Civil Engineering are Construction Management, Structures, and Transportation. My interest in Structures goes back to my days in middle school. I was a part of the MESA program and competed in their Popsicle Stick Bridge competition. Although I lacked design experience, my intuition and my motivation was the key to my success. I was able to build a small wooden structure, that during competition at USC, sustained a load of 505 pounds. Years later, I found myself at UC Irvine doing the same thing. Only this time, instead of popsicle sticks, I had steel; and instead of white glue, I was able to weld. The steel bridge team at UCI, alongside with ASCE was the family that helped me transition into college and allowed me to continue to pursue my passion with bridges and structures. I was very happy with the hands-on experience I was getting with the team, but I wanted to continue to learn about the structures. This lead me to my research position with Professor Farzin Zareian in structural engineering. I was responsible for performing System Identification on 15 buildings throughout California using data from the CA Strong Motion Instrumentation Program. I was focused on the buildings performance after earthquake excitation. Under guidance from the CAMP, California Alliance for Minority Participation, office, my graduate student, and my professor, I was able to publish a research paper and poster. I submitted my abstract and was able to present my findings at multiple conferences, including the NSF/AAAS Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, DC. My experience in research, and my interactions with graduate schools made me see that a graduate education was well within my grasp. It also made me consider whether I want to pursue a position in academia or in industry. I am favoring industry over academia, but I do not entirely discard academia at this moment. Another great take from research was the interaction with undergraduates around the country in Civil Engineering. I was able to see different projects in Structures, Transportation, and Water, but most importantly I saw that we all shared a passion for Civil Engineering. Structures is a big interest for me, but another field that has just a big of space in my heart is Transportation. Growing up in Los Angeles, it is hard to not see the influence that Metro has. I have come a long way from wanting to be a bus/train driver when I was small, to wanting to collaborate in Metro Engineering projects. Seeing key projects like the Gold and Expo lines being built have been key motivators throughout my life, and I hope to be a part of a similar project in the future. A key aspiration would be to work for Metro, but I would be happy with being a part of a Metro project in a consulting firm. In the meantime, I have had the privilege of interning with UCI Transportation. I joined their Civil Design Team in May 2015, and was promoted to lead this past June. This position has allowed me to grow a lot in a small amount of time. I have become familiar with multiple design manuals including ADA, Green book, CA Building Code, and the CA MUTCD. The position has came with great responsibility, like managing our team of 7 interns. These experiences have helped me mature both as a student and as a professional. It does get challenging at times but I enjoy the responsibility of being a Civil Engineering intern. Talking to contractors and seeing them build something that you designed creates a wonderful feeling that you can’t describe. What fills me most with pride, is that as I work on various projects for UCI, I know that I am leaving my legacy behind after I graduate. Last but certainly not least on my list of interests in Civil Engineering would be Construction Management. My interest in construction began many years ago when my father began taking me with him to work. My father does construction, specializing in replastering and remodeling swimming pools. I started off by handing the workers the tools and running small errands, when I was young; to working with concrete, plaster, or even using the chipping hammers to perform demolition. Construction began as a humbling experience but quickly turned to a learning experience. I learned how to manage a project, by speaking with customers, suppliers, and fellow contractors. Communication is a great asset and necessity, and this experience has allowed me to gain much needed insight in this field. In 2016, UCI formed a Construction Management team where I was Design and Construction lead. Our team participated in UC Davis’ Construction Management Competition where we designed a concrete apron. We came up with a set of plans, a itemized budget and bid, as well as a presentation. The unique part of the competition was that we actually got to build our concrete apron. We excavated, set forms and rebar, and poured concrete. Now I hope on bringing this experience to UCI by introducing a Design-Build/Construction competition to ASCE’s Pacific Southwest Conference. My goal is to share the same experience that my team experienced in Davis with the 19 universities competing. Construction Management is a field that is not necessarily covered in Civil Engineering curriculums, and hopefully I can cover that gap for fellow students.


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