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Profile of Bella Nguyen

Bella is a PhD student in Construction Engineering


How did you get into Engineering?

Having an ‘eye’ – an appreciation – for architecture and the ability to bring those structures to life has always been my passion and main motivation.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

I am currently on the home stretch of my PhD wrapping up the last set of experiments and preparing for the sleepless nights of thesis writing. On the one hand, I am looking forward to the next phase of my career but on the other, sad that every day that passes brings me closer to ending this chapter of my life. Cambridge will always hold a special place in my heart (as mawkishly sentimental as that may sound).

Plans for the future: As of January 2017, I will be joining Trimble as an Applications Engineer in Denver, Colorado. As a side project, I will be working on the commercialization my PhD research (Over-height Vehicle Detection & Warning System) alongside London Underground (Transport for London), Cambridge University and Trimble.

What motivates/interests you?

Simple: the ability to help others.  

What has helped your career?

During my undergraduate, I had two very memorable mentors Dr. Eugene Ng and Michael Piczak, both of whom have been the root reasons why I have chosen to pursue a PhD in Engineering. I don’t know if they know this but I will have to admit that my time at McMaster was priceless. Although working full-time and taking on a full course load was difficult, the constant stream of laugher made everything seem a little more bearable. If I had to go back and do it all again, I would in a heartbeat. Many of my fondest memories were made in the late hours of Thode Library.

How have you overcome challenges/knockbacks in your career?

I will shy away from what the Business School books have taught us in terms of overcoming challenges and setbacks in your career and say something from what I have experienced as a researcher. There will be times when you spend weeks/months writing a journal paper, grant proposal, and/or competition application where the result is simply a rejection letter. Overcoming setbacks is a skill you need to master. The ability to shake things off and to move on quickly does not come natural to most. It requires practice.

Do you have any advice for women who considering studying/pursuing a career in Engineering?

I was once told by a group of men that women do not belong on construction sites. A year later, I became their boss. Don’t ever let any of these comments govern your life decisions, most of them are untrue. Engineering is full of inspirational and admirable women and I cannot think of any other area I would rather be in.