Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Sydney Beckett

By Sua Cho ’24

We are spotlighting Duke University Pratt School of Engineering student stories in an effort to share the many paths that can be taken. Read below for a transcript of an interview with Mechanical Engineering senior, Sydney Beckett.

What is your major?

I’m studying Mechanical Engineering and pursuing a Math minor and an Aerospace certificate.

What drew you into this major?

I somewhat knew before coming to Duke that I wanted to study Mechanical Engineering, but it was only after taking EGR121 that I decided for sure that I want to pursue this path. I have a hard time articulating exactly why I like this field, but I really like hands-on problem solving, which is a huge aspect of mechanical engineering.

What is unique about your major?

For Mechanical Engineering, you get such a broad scope of learning. You learn so much and you can go into the industry in many, many different ways. For example, you can take your degree and go into medical devices, energy, aerospace industry, consulting, etc., so many different areas. Especially at Duke, they do a good job of giving you technical skills early on in the curriculum, which is helpful when looking for internships.

What is the most challenging part about your major?

It’s a lot of work. As a mechanical engineer, you make a lot of design choices, and it can be very ambiguous to have a wide range of choices you can pick from. You can take it in many different ways, but it’s not very straightforward. It requires creativity, which can be tough if you’re more straightforward-minded.

Is there any advice to students who might be considering your major?

This is more for students who have already chosen this major, but I would say get hands on experience as early as possible, whether that is through industry experiences, independent project, etc. Applying what you learn in the classroom is the most important thing.

What are the typical career options for students with your major?

You have such a wide realm. Having gone through it myself, I can describe the career selection process like this: you have to pick a school, then your major, then the industry, and then your job title in the industry. So as a mechanical engineer, you could be an aerospace engineer in the industry, you could be a structural analysis engineer, a mechanical designer, or a project engineer, so there are so many options.

As for industries, you have med tech, which is medical devices, you have aerospace, energy (i.e. wind turbines, solar energy, hydropower), academia, defense, which is often tied with aerospace, automotive industry, additives (i.e. 3D printing), robotics, and sustainability. You can also go into start-up or corporate companies. Some job titles include mechanical designer, systems engineer, project engineers, and test engineers. You can also do research & development, analysis, or manufacturing.

What extracurriculars/campus involvement are you doing that will be helpful for your career?

I’ve been involved in Duke Motor Sports since sophomore year. I’m also the Treasurer and lead for the Chassis Subsystem Team, which builds, designs, manufactures, and analyzes the frame of cars. I also work at the Co-lab in the Bluesmith division, which does 3D printing for the medical campus and researchers. We print hearts, as well as spines for scoliosis in the pediatric division. There are different types of printers, and as a consultant, I advise clients who come with the model the want to print already done. For example, if the mesh sizing is off, the model has a hole, etc., I help fix it. I’m also the hall monitor and trip leader for Outdoor Adventures, as well as the co-president of ASME. I also play club basketball.

What is your goal/plan for the future?

It’s changing all the time. I currently want to go into air-craft design, specifically structural and dynamic analysis, or aerodynamics analysis. I love the math aspect of it. I’ve considered going to grad school but I’m not sure what I want, so I decided to hold off and go into industry first to figure out what specific grad degree and area of specialization I want.

By Stacia Solomon (she/hers)
Stacia Solomon (she/hers) Associate Director, Career Readiness Stacia Solomon (she/hers)