"We will achieve excellence in everything we do... we will create an inclusive, multicultural environment. These dual priorities are profoundly and immutably interconnected. We cannot have excellence without a diverse and inclusive campus. And they are both journeys, because the pursuit of excellence and a supportive, respectful community require determined, cooperative and ceaseless work."
"Engineers rise and fall on the strength of their teams and collaborations. Innovation and excellence in engineering design requires diverse teams: They are stronger and wiser, producing results that benefit everyone. When we embrace each other’s differences, it generates a breadth and depth of ideas that we could not otherwise achieve. This is the path to success in engineering and a better world for us all."
"All of us can and should commit to eliminating racism and bias in our personal spheres. Without the commitment to address these issues within our own proximity, being able to commit to making a difference in a larger space is not feasible. I encourage everyone in the Department to reflect on what you can do to change the U.S. experience to rid our society of inequality, and embrace diversity, tolerance and compassion."
I immediately felt at home on the University of Maryland campus.
Name: Etienne Jackson
Hometown: Waldorf, MD
Expected graduation date: 2022
Why did you choose to study at the University of Maryland College Park?
After spending a day with the Terp Yes program, I immediately felt at home on the University of Maryland campus. The people here are very nice and once you find a community that you feel the most welcomed in, they become a second family away from home. I participated in the Bridge Program for minority S.T.E.M. students and we all instantly connected after one day. We all were welcomed and brought in by a multitude of different organizations communities such as B.E.S., S.H.P.E., and the Center for Minorities in the Sciences Department as a whole. Maryland gave me a feeling unlike any other school I visited, so once my tour was over with the CMSE Department, I knew I had to come here.
How did you hear about FPE and what prompted you to declare it as your major?
I actually didn’t directly hear about the Fire Protection Engineering program. I was accepted into UMD as a Mechanical Engineer and I chose that major due to its broad nature. I came to the University prior to the start of school to tour for my prospective major. Thankfully, I went on the wrong tour and ended up on the FPE tour - kismet! I instantly fell in love with it and two weeks later I officially changed my major before the first day of class.
Have you conducted any research, either on or off-campus? If so, please explain.
I conducted research under FPE Chair James Milke during the summer of 2019. At that time, I installed/configured/measured the different detectors along with their corresponding piping and wiring. We then calculated and recorded the smoke obscuration using the smoke grenades at hand for the tests, whilst constructing, disassembling and reconstructing the workspaces. I was also responsible for recording test data which included the referenced airflow, the smoke obscuration, peak obscuration and air pressure with the various detection systems being tested.
What is the best thing about your experience here thus far, and what were any challenges you had to overcome?
The best thing about my experiences at Maryland has to be the people. The people at UMD are unlike no other community, and give you an immense welcoming feeling as soon as you get to the campus.
How else are you involved on campus?
I am actually involved in a number of organizations on campus. I'm on the executive board for both the Black Engineers Society and Black Men Association. I also volunteer for the Center for Minorities and Sciences, and serve as an advisor/founder of SEB Entertainment.
When you’re not in a class, or serving the University/Department, how do you spend your free time?
When I am not in class or performing service, I am working my job in Oakland Hall as a Community Assistant, or studying for upcoming exams, quizzes, etc.
Any post-commencement plans?
After I graduate, I hope to get a job as a full-time Fire Protection Engineer and gain all the knowledge needed to educate others on what it actually means to work in this field. I hope to one day have my own FPE company and in order to do so, I need to be advanced on the knowledge needed to work in fire safety.
Engineering is a complex major, not for the faint of heart – do you have any advice for future/incoming students as to how they can be successful?
For incoming students, my advice to them would be to keep your head up throughout the school year and don’t be afraid to get involved on campus. It is inevitable to have some setbacks; especially in your freshman year but you need to understand that other freshmen are experiencing the same things and there are multiple resources on campus to help you get through almost any situation you are in. As for being involved on campus, everyone needs something to separate them from the rest of the crowd because grades aren’t everything; thus, extracurricular activities are important.
Just for fun, what do you want to be when you grow up?
When I am grown, I want to be someone that everyone relies on. I want to become financially stable with my own real estate company and Fire Protection Engineering company. I want to have enough money to keep my family out of poverty and last my family generations. I want to also serve as a role model for African Americans around the world, and hopefully be a good parent to my potential children.
The community I immediately found and experienced within FPE has made a significant difference in my academics and in my life.
Name: Ashlynne Orcurto, 2019 John L. Bryan GRA Award recipient
Hometown: Bowie MD
Graduation date: Spring 2019
Why did you choose to study at the University of Maryland?
I transferred into the University of Maryland after earning my A.S. in general engineering at a community college. I chose Maryland because I fell in love with the passion, mission and community that exists within the Fire Protection Engineering Department.
How did you hear about the Dept of Fire Protection Engineering, and what attracted you to the major?
At community college our ENES 100 class presented on different engineering disciplines, and I was picked to present on Fire Protection Engineering. So it was always a possibility in the back of my mind. When I was getting ready to transfer to a 4-year school, I wasn’t sure what discipline I specifically wanted to study. I just knew that I wanted to use my education (and eventually career) to help others. That same mindset is written into the mission of the FPE department. So I knew that if I chose to pursue this major, I would not only be equipped to be an engineer but also to use my skills to help other people. When I had the opportunity to tour the department before I transferred it became abundantly clear that not only is this field dedicated to that mission, but the entire department is as well.
What’s been the best thing about your academic experience here so far?
The community I immediately found and experienced within FPE has made a significant difference in my academics and in my life. The faculty are passionate about both this field and seeing their students learn and succeed. In my second semester in the department I had the opportunity to assist in a department research project and to become an NFPA student ambassador for the department. Both of these opportunities allowed me to become more invested in the department. The research project gave me an inside look at the work and experiments that go on in the laboratories and the impact they have on the industry at large, while the ambassador events allowed me to share my excitement for this major with high school students and incoming freshmen.
Please explain your current research. Does this research connect to any co-ops or internships you've participated in? How does this research, and/or off-campus experience, tie into your future plans?
This spring I am excited to begin research with Dr. Gollner on ignition of fuels in wildland fires. This semester I will be researching under a graduate student, Lana Benny, with the intention of taking on the research project in the fall when I begin my graduate studies. I have always been fascinated with the spread and effects of wildland fires, so I am looking forward to spending this next year researching this topic!
Which has been your favorite class and why?
Fluid dynamics was my favorite class. I loved seeing everyday occurrences explained through scientific and mathematical principles. The way that we are able to quantify and model natural things such as water flow are incredible and inspiring to me. As engineers and scientists, we have come so far and I get excited anticipating just how much farther we are able to go!
Engineering can be an intensely difficult major. Do you have any suggestions for other students on how to manage it (inside or outside the classroom)?
Being accountable but flexible with your study schedule is hugely important as a student. Knowing what your brain can or can’t handle when you sit down to study saves a lot of frustration. Being in such a small department is a huge advantage as well. The professors are approachable and collaborating with other students is easy and helpful.
You recently conducted an internship at Johnson Controls - what was that experience like?
So, last summer, I worked in the JC fire domain. Many people don't realize this, but Simplex-Grinnell and Tyco are both part of the Johnson Control family, so I had some great interactions with both the sprinkler and the fire alarm sides of the industry. Half of my summer was spent in the field doing everything from survey and acceptance testing, to actually installing sprinkler pipes in buildings! It was a unique opportunity to see the concepts that I have learned in the classroom actually be applied and to see a different side of places than I normally do. The rest of my summer was spent in the department working on layout and design of both fire alarm and sprinkler systems. I was actually able to help assist in planning the layout for the fire alarm system in the new Iribe Center! I got a ton of incredible exposure and experiences in during my time with Johnson Controls, and I'm looking forward to taking those experiences with me moving forward in my career.
What do you do for fun, outside the classroom/lab?
I’m part of a few clubs on campus and in addition to going to their events, I enjoy spending time with my friends outside of the department. When the weather is nice, you’ll likely find me running around Lake Artemisia, climbing the rock wall, or playing disc golf at Calvert Road Park.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I’m planning to spend my summer and this following year finishing my M.S. degree as a part of the accelerated bachelors/masters program within the department.
*Ashlynne is the 2019 John L. Bryan GRA Award - follow this link to learn more!
Having practical experience has given me more confidence in my academic abilities.
We chatted with Margaret Tatum to learn more about her experience in Fire Protection Engineering, and how her UMD undergraduate program led to a job offer - several semesters prior to her May 2018 commencement.
Why did you choose to attend the University of Maryland, and more specifically, join the Department of Fire Protection Engineering?
Around my junior year of high school, I realized that I didn’t want to be a doctor, so I started looking at good engineering schools. Maryland was among the top schools and had a Women in Engineering day camp for high school girls who are interested in engineering. I originally wanted to do Chemical Engineering, but that camp was full. FPE had a few openings and like everyone else, when they first hear the words ‘Fire Protection,’ I literally had no idea what that was, but thought it sounded cool. During the camp they offered fire demos – we experimented with how the different pool fire diameters affected the size of a fire – we tried to simulate a small scale flashover – and we played with small scale fire whirls. It was the most fun I have had doing science stuff – ever – and for the first time I thought to myself, “Yeah, I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”
What prompted you to intern at GHD last summer?
Honestly, I applied to a lot of companies for internships this past summer. GHD – a multinational firm that provides engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services to private and public sector clients – was one of the few companies that offered me an interview, and it was by far my best one [interview]. They moved quickly with an offer and promised a project-intensive summer. I enjoyed their clear, vested interest in me and knowing that I would be able to apply what I learned in school to real world projects. Additionally, I enjoy experiencing new places and environments, so the location – Atlanta – was even more of an incentive for me. I was excited about the prospect of exploring the city whenever I could.
What did your responsibilities consist of?
My official title was Fire Protection Engineering Technical Apprentice, and my general responsibilities were to help all the junior and senior level Fire Protection Engineers and Technical Specialists with their various projects. I specifically helped with egress (exiting) and life safety calculations for a new San Antonio Federal Courthouse, using CONTAM to model stair pressurization for a USF College of Medicine and Heart Institute – the bulk of my summer consisted of designing and modeling a sprinkler and fire alarm system for a 900k square foot wood processing plant in AutoCAD.
GHD also gave me the responsibility of giving a 5-10 minute safety moment presentation before each weekly meeting. Every Thursday during lunch, they had a ‘Learning Moment,’ where either someone in the office gave a presentation, or we went to another company’s office, like a field trip. They assigned me to give a Learning Moment about a month into my internship, and I gave it on a course I took abroad in Sydney, Australia, called ENES472 International Business and Global Leadership in Engineering and Technology. I also, coordinated an information session and facilities tour with the president of a local fire pump manufacturing company called SyncroFlo Pumps. Finally, I attended a few networking lunches with some of our clients – one of them was with an architecture firm that designed Chick-fil-A restaurants. A lead engineer on the project was there, and when I told him about my obsession with Chick-fil-A, he gave me a bunch of free meal tickets – psyched!
This next one is three-fold: Was the internship different from what you expected? What was your favorite part of the job? And did it help you with your studies upon return to UMD?
I didn’t really have any expectations for this internship. In the past, I had only worked non-engineering related jobs and had done a year’s worth of aeronautical/aerospace engineering research, so I had no internship experience let alone fire protection internship experience. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. All of my coworkers were very welcoming, understanding and helpful – both inside and outside of work. I was constantly working on interesting projects, so I was never bored and continuously learning and applying my knowledge. Truthfully, as much as I liked the projects I was working on, I would say my favorite part of the job was getting all of those free Chick-fil-A meal tickets (she said, tongue-in-cheek).
The internship definitely helped me with my studies since I have been back in school. Having that practical experience has given me more confidence in my academic abilities. They also exposed me to some FDS, which is a class I’m taking in the spring, so I have a slight understanding heading into that class. Moreover, I’m currently taking a water-based suppression class, so touring the SyncroFlo facilities and designing that sprinkler system has given me a leg up in this class as well.
How did the FPE Department help to prepare you for your internship?
Despite having no previous internship experience, I definitely felt prepared and capable of completing every task they assigned me to do. Pretty much every FPE class requires students to do a major research project related to what we’re learning, and I made sure to bring those projects and my notes from all my fire protection classes with me, which I referenced throughout the internship. Also, most of my coworkers (4 out of 6) were alumni of the FPE program here at UMD, so they knew what I’ve been exposed to and that I would be prepared for whatever they threw at me.
This sounds like a great experience. Do you plan to return?
I’m still making that decision, but I believe that I am. They did give me a nice job offer, but I am considering going to graduate school immediately after commencement. Or maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get to pursue both opportunities!
Do you have any advice to offer other students, especially incoming FPE majors?
Yes - develop a relationship with your professors. I know it can be daunting, but they are here to help and genuinely want you to succeed, so don’t be afraid to go to them for help and advice. Get involved! There are so many research projects – group projects like Terp Racing, professional groups, and sports clubs. They’re a great way to make friends with similar interests and can give you some leadership and practical experience that recruiters look for. Finally, do a semester abroad, at the very least, if you can, because learning outside of the classroom, and the U.S., is the best!
Update: Since this interview was conducted, Margaret accepted a position with GHD and started there this fall.