Building a Bridge: Suehaidee designs a future in civil engineering

Suehaidee Masso

Suehaidee Masso

Roads and drainage are intriguing, but Suehaidee Masso finds her inspiration in bridges.

“I like bridges just because how everything has to be laid out so specifically. You can see exactly where those soft points of pressure are,” explained the Engineering Science major, who will transfer to the University at Buffalo this fall to major in civil engineering.

She had the opportunity to explore the intricacies of infrastructure, including bridges, during an internship with the New York State Department of Transportation. As a transportation construction inspector (TCI), she watched over workers on the job, making sure they received the right directions and followed their spec book.

Some of that work did involve bridges – under the Industrial Park exit. She worked on sounding the concrete beams below the road, which have to be constantly monitored to make sure they can handle the complex stresses placed upon them. She’s looking forward to returning to the DOT for another internship this summer before she heads to Buffalo.

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While women have made headway in the engineering field, the profession is still dominated by men, Masso acknowledged. Her first introduction to the field came in fourth grade, when she took part in the Girls in Engineering Program at her Binghamton elementary school. More opportunities followed, including the Broome-Tioga BOCES New Visions Engineering Academy, which brought students to the DOT, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and other engineering firms.

“As a woman in engineering, sometimes it can be hard to be looked at in the same way as a man would be,” the Chenango Valley High School graduate explained. “On the other hand, women bring a different kind of perspective to the field, which is nice.”

Before her internship with the DOT, Masso considered a future in mechanical engineering. Once she had a taste of infrastructure, however, she knew her path lay in the civil engineering field.

SUNY Broome proved to be an ideal destination for Masso, who chose the college both for its low tuition and its proximity to her family. The courses for an Engineering Science student are the same both academically and in terms of rigor as a four-year school, with one main difference: Students are encouraged to work together, and develop teamwork skills that will be useful on the job later on.

“Everything is more individualized and you can really get that solid learning background,” she said. “It’s a great place to go to really get your head in the game. I honestly don’t know how people can go straight into a four-year school.”

Small class sizes allow students to interact with their professors and develop an academic support system. Masso particularly appreciates the guidance of Professor Robert Lofthouse, who has a great depth of knowledge in his field – which he imparts to his students.

“He knows absolutely everything you can possibly think of,” she said.

Long term, Suehaidee Masso hopes to continue her work on bridges – not only bridging the gap for women in engineering, but bringing her knowledge to developing countries and aiding the infrastructure there.

While she was unable to go on SUNY Broome’s Health for Haiti trip, she and other engineering science students did research ways to improve Grande Saline’s clean water and gardening irrigation systems, providing ideas which community members found useful.

“I want to go out to third world countries to have a sense of what they’re facing and how we can fix it,” she said. “Maybe I can get out there with some really good designs.”