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Civil Engineering Alumna Builds a Successful Career

Khanh Chau, '04

Since her graduation in 2004, civil engineering alumna, Khanh Chau has been putting her knowledge to work as a Design Engineer with Gregory P. Luth and Associates (GPLA) of Santa Clara. Her latest assignment has taken her on location for the expansion of Anaheim’s Grand Californian Hotel in Downtown Disney.

Working under the project manager, Chau’s presence onsite has kept the project moving forward as she and the architect and contractor are often called upon to work together to adjust the design on the spot. Along the way, there have been lots of surprises, but Chau says she was well prepared for the challenge. “We did a lot of real-life designs in class, and I have actually used some of my homework assignments in my design work, and I’m still using all my books,” she said.

Being in the field has been an education, as well. “It’s important for a structural engineer to see how things are actually built; how the concrete, wood, and steel interface; how the workers are struggling to build what you have designed,” she said. “Though it may be less expensive to do things one way, I now ask myself if that is the easiest way for it to be done, and of course I can always call on my profs at SCU to ask their advice.”

In fact, when Chau recently enrolled in the graduate program in structural engineering at the University of Texas in Austin, she went over her program of study with two of her former SCU professors first. “That’s what I love about SCU,” she said; “I can always call on them; they never turn me away.”

Combining her bachelor’s degree with field experience has been exactly the right design for Chau’s career. “I wanted to work a bit first, to see what I wanted to learn before starting on my master’s degree,” she said. “Now I know my strengths and weaknesses and can expand on that.” GPLA is helping with her tuition and her job will be waiting for her when she returns from Texas.