Ryan Shooshan, ‘13

Hometown: Paxton, MA

Degree: BS, Civil Engineering with an Environmental Concentration

Why did you choose to attend WPI?
WPI’s project-based curriculum and strong academic reputation attracted me to it.

How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
WPI’s motto of Theory and Practice has been exemplified in numerous classes and projects I have completed at the institution. Most professors teach the theory of subject, and while understanding the theory is imperative, there are several opportunities to apply that theory in the lab courses. A wide variety of lab courses are offered in everything from basic chemistry to materials of construction to robotics. In addition to lab opportunities, I have had the opportunity to research solutions to alternative water and sanitation systems. I completed this research seven weeks prior to completing my IQP abroad in South Africa. After learning the background knowledge, I was able to “practice,” or put to use, the information I had researched; as a result, my team was able to improve water sanitation and hygiene in an informal settlement an hour outside of Cape Town.

What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
WPI’s greatest strength is its sense of community. As an undergraduate, there are countless opportunities to join or create clubs that interest you. Organizations on campus give students leadership opportunities as well as the ability to meet students in each class. In addition, alumni, professors, and faculty have a great sense of care and desire to make WPI the best institution it can be. The small-school atmosphere allows students to build relationships with faculty and become more than just a number on campus.

Finally, continuous efforts to improve the school come in countless folds, from new construction projects to the efforts of the department of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies in creating new off-campus IQP and MQP locations year in and year out.

How have the professors in your department impacted your studies and your life?
This past fall, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Cape Town, South Africa, to complete my IQP. In addition to working in an informal settlement to improve water sanitation and hygiene, I had the opportunity to actively research and learn about African society and culture with my professors. I had never before been in a situation with a professor where we were actively learning about a topic in unison. Professors Scott Jiusto and Stephen Taylor both offered invaluable advice and guidance during the process but were also very open to what the African community thought was best for the project. Both professors have showed great enthusiasm during the project and plan to further the efforts next year in the same and neighboring settlements.

What are your research projects?
During my IQP experience in South Africa, I was able to work in a team with three other students of varying majors to develop a partnership with the local municipality, a Non-Governmental Organization, and the Langrug community counsel in South Africa. My team and I worked in close collaboration with our partners on water sanitation and hygiene upgrading. With assistance from the community, we developed a process for incremental upgrading, designed and constructed an innovative tap, implemented paintings to foster early childhood development in an ablution block, and proposed designs for a future multipurpose hall. A key recommendation we proposed was for the waste to be sold as fertilizer. By turning the waste into a valued product, there would be potential for business opportunity and job creation in Langrug.

The work created a starting point for Langrug to become a center for global learning and research in water sanitation and hygiene provision. This experience strengthened my interest in learning about new and alternative ways to make a positive environmental impact.

What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
After graduation, I plan to either attend graduate school or look for a full-time position at an environmental engineering consulting firm.

Groups or extracurricular activities you participate in at WPI:

  • Lambda Chi Alpha-Pi Zeta
  • Men’s Varsity Track & Field
  • Peer Academic Coach

Academic or professional awards you have received:

  • Tau Beta Pi-National Engineering Honor Society
  • Chi Epsilon-National Civil Engineering Honor Society
  • Order of Omega-National Greek Honor Society
  • Dean’s List
  • NEWMAC Academic All Conference
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