Engineering Futures Mentor
Computer science isn’t what engineering futures mentor, Alexandra Plukis, came to ASU expecting to study. She initially pursued chemical engineering, but struggled to find inspiration in the program, and even questioned transferring to a college closer to her hometown of Brentwood, Tennessee.
“I struggled a lot with homesickness and just feeling like maybe engineering wasn’t the place for me,” Plukis said.
Second semester of her freshman year at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, she took a computer science course and her outlook changed.
“There’s just sort of like a meditative state you get into when you’re coding that I kind of fell in love with, and I just want to pursue that,” Plukis said.
Now, Plukis is spending the summer before her junior year at George Mason University in Virginia, participating in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergrad (REU) program under the National Science Foundation.
“Basically, it’s like applying machine learning problems to social issues,” Plukis said. She will be specifically looking into the relationship between highly-rated professors and students’ performance. “It’s kind of a whirlwind … there’s tutorials and talks intermixed with just trying to code as fast as you can to try to figure out what your problem is. But it’s a really enjoyable experience.”
In addition to her recent research and duties as an engineering futures mentor, Plukis has been involved in a variety of organizations and activities at ASU, from attending meetings for the Software Developers Association and Women in Computer Science clubs to participating in the Sun Hacks Hackathon and volunteering with Changemaker.
What was most rewarding to her was getting to be an engineering futures mentor.
“After I was able to work with Dr. Ganesh, Robin Hammond and the rest of the EF team, I started feeling there’s more of a community for me at school,” she said. It gave her a sense of belonging and allowed her to help other students like her who were unsure of what their path was in the engineering program.
Plukis acknowledges that engineering isn’t supposed to be easy. “Everyone has their hard points. Everyone struggles with some concepts. Just because you don’t feel like you’re doing well in class doesn’t mean that you’re not meant to be an engineer.”
To others in engineering she recommends reaching out to peers, professors and ASU’s many resources. “There’ll be someone who can help you along your way … There’s someone who knows your issue, has come from it themselves and can help you solve it.”
Plukis wants to pursue a Master’s degree once she graduates and is thinking about teaching at the college level. “But I’d also like to try maybe doing some industry jobs as well, so I’m kind of at a crossroads,” she said. As she persists through engineering, Plukis faces a future full of opportunity.
By Summer Sorg, Science and Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
August 28, 2019