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In the Spotlight - Sarah Monastero, '18
Spring 2018

Sarah Monastero '18, one of the first Stony Brook Civil Engineering students to enter our 5-year program, provides us with insight into her experiences while at Stony Brook. Her positive outlook towards achieving her goals is commendable and we look forward to having her in our program full-time next year.

What originally made you decide to study Civil Engineering at Stony Brook and then be one of our first students to pursue the 5-year program?  Sarah

From the start, I knew I wanted to study civil engineering. I chose Stony Brook because of the engineering program reputation. I knew I would be challenged and with the establishment of the Department of Civil Engineering a few years before I applied, I would be a part of a continuously improving program. I applied to the 5-year program at the end of my junior year because I knew the quality of my graduate education and the teaching staff would once again be exceptional. An added benefit was the cost and time effectiveness of the accelerated program, allowing a graduate student such as myself to be qualified for the P.E. exam sooner once they are in the field. It is truly a great opportunity for an engineering student seriously considering graduate school.

What are some of your strategies that you use to stay on track with school work? Do you have any de-stressing activities or hobbies outside of school?

Over these four years in the civil engineering program, I have learned some great study strategies. If I have a long-term assignment, I try to start as soon as possible and map out the work each day in manageable increments. The key is to be reasonable with the amount of work I do in one sitting. If it is a paper, I will I complete a page or so per day a few weeks before the due date. It was also helpful for me to write down my goals in a planner. When I meet my goals, I reward myself by spending time with friends and family. Whenever I feel particularly stressed, I love to go to the gym. I often take exercise or yoga classes. When my body feels healthy, so does my mind. Outside of Stony Brook, you can often find me playing with my two dogs, playing a round of golf with my dad, reading a new book, and trying out DIYs from Pinterest. On the weekends, I love to attend concerts in the city with my friends and boyfriend. I also listen to podcasts and Dave Matthews Band albums on my commute to school.

Are you currently working on any research projects? If so, can you share a bit about them?

I am currently taking CIV 499, an independent research class under Dr. Xinwei Mao. In high school, I performed a water quality study and presented my results in competitions across Long Island. I missed the research aspect of my studies, this made me want to start an independent project. I am conducting environmental engineering research for Stony Brook’s Center for Clean Water Technology. My project involves assessing the bioavailability of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in effluent samples from nitrogen-removing biofilters. I find this topic interesting because many studies discuss the ability of organisms to take up dissolved inorganic nitrogen sources in the environment but neglect to investigate DON.

Another research project that I am working on is my senior design project for CIV 440/441. It involves writing a feasibility study for the reuse of biosolids, or treated sewage, produced by Riverhead Water Resource Recovery Facility. My group members and I are looking into possible reuse options such as land application on local sod farms and the production of a raw material for cement. These endeavors have given me an appreciation of the time and energy it takes to produce a quality engineering project, especially as a part of a team.

Has there been a professor or mentor at Stony Brook that has made a positive influence on your academic journey and in what way? 

Dr. Mao is such an inspiration! I took Dr. Mao’s class, Introduction to Biotechnology (CIV 426/526) last semester, and I highly recommend it to any student interested in learning more about wastewater and drinking water treatment processes and technologies. As a professor, Dr. Mao made challenging course material manageable and was supportive whenever I had questions or wanted to discuss a topic in further detail during office hours. It is amazing to see the wealth of information that she brings to Stony Brook’s Department of Civil Engineering. Her encouragement and patience has helped me realize my full potential as a student and has solidified my decision to pursue environmental/civil engineering as a career.  

Mr. Frank Russo has also made a significant impact on my academic and career paths. His experience and success in the consulting field makes him a great role model for engineering students. He listens to students and actively considers our feedback. You can often find him before and after class interacting with students, always with a smile on his face. I cannot thank him enough for instilling confidence in me that I will perform well as a young professional in industry.

What is your best or favorite memory while being in the program and what are you most passionate about Civil Engineering?

When I reflect on my time in the program, I cannot remember one memory that stands out but a few small, poignant memories. I was able to meet so many lovely people in the civil engineering program because of the size of the major classes and everyone is really welcoming. Just a few memories that I can think of are: the late-night study groups with my friends before exams, getting Cabo Fresh after geotechnical engineering lab, spending my first day in the environmental engineering lab for research, witnessing the talents of my classmates for the concrete art project in CIV 312, and receiving the notice that I had been accepted into the 5-year accelerated B.E./M.S. program. Some of my favorite memories happened in lab with Mrs. Brown due to the hand-on experiments that allowed for collaboration between students. I’ll definitely look back on the program fondly in May when I graduate. I think I am most passionate about the impact and direct role an engineer has in societal problem-solving. I always wanted to pursue a major that would help me work with the environment. With civil engineering, I have the ability to effect change and affect thousands of people at once, which also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Majoring in civil engineering allows students to choose between multiple career paths, which is something I love. If Stony Brook students are unsure which engineering discipline they would like to pursue as an underclassman, they can explore interests by enrolling in the department’s specialization courses.


Previous Student Spotlights
Pasquale Giaquinto, Winter 2017
Joseph Kocaj, Fall 2017
Katheryn Capone, Spring 2017  
Alexander Corpolongo, Fall 2016
Zephrine Gabriel and Thomas Kennedy, Spring 2016
Nicole Yoo, Fall 2015
Morgan DiCarlo, Spring 2015

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