Feature Stories

He's the Engineering Student of the Year

The Newark College of Engineering recently named Pedro Santos the Outstanding Senior of the Year.

Pedro Santos is not innately intelligent, he says. Rather, he considers himself a hard worker. 

If anything -- if any one characteristic -- sets him apart from his peers it’s hard work, an ethic he inherited from his parents.

“My parents immigrated from Portugal and both worked hard in America to buy a nice house in a nice suburb,” says Pedro, a senior who is soft-spoken, humble and quick to smile. “My father is a diesel mechanic and my mother works cleaning houses. We are a really close family.  I saw how hard they worked and knew I had to work just as hard on my studies.”  

Pedro’s studiousness is beginning to bear fruit. The Newark College of Engineering (NCE) recently named him the Outstanding Senior of the Year, as well as the Outstanding Senior in his major – civil and environmental engineering.  Academically, he has a 4.0 GPA and is ranked first in his senior class. He holds seven scholarships and belongs to four honor societies. He attends the Albert Dorman Honors College and worked as an NJIT tutor for two years, where he helped hundreds of students improve in chemistry, physics and statistics.  

Though he majors in engineering, he has a minor in business, and belonged to a student team that competed in a Global Investment Research Challenge. The team had to develop a report for a stock recommendation and present it before a panel of Wall Street experts. He was the only engineering student chosen by the School of Management to participate in the contest. This past summer, he also worked as a summer intern at Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. 

In this interview, Pedro talks about his interest in engineering, his family and his career plans.

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How’d you get interested in engineering?

I was always good in math and science in high school, and I was surrounded by engineering.  My older brother, Diogo, studied civil engineering at NJIT. He graduated eighth years ago and he teaches here part time as an adjunct professor. He has a good job working for Petry Engineering. His wife, Stephanie Santos, is also a university lecturer of civil engineering here at NJIT.  My father is a diesel mechanic who works on trucks and the work he does is similar to engineering.  He used to talk to me about his work.  My parents also encouraged me to study something that would lead to a good career, and that was engineering.

Why did you come to NJIT?

It was close to home (North Arlington), it had a good engineering program and I received a full scholarship.  Also my brother is an NJIT grad and liked it here.

Have you enjoyed studying civil engineering?

I’ve had some great professors of civil engineering who’ve been super helpful.  The major is a great mix of hands on-learning, applied engineering and theory.  Many of the civil professors also have field experience that enhances their teaching and our learning.

What part of civil engineering do you like best?

My interest is in site development and planning.  I like to evaluate a piece of property and design it to serve the developer’s needs. Where is the storm water going to go?  Will it run off the land or be captured?  I enjoy designing land development projects where the parking, grading slopes and building locations all come together to provide an efficient and cost-effective solution for clients. I did some of this work during my internship at Langan and really enjoyed it. 

What do you do outside of school?

I am heavily involved in my church (Church Alive), where I’m a team leader. I volunteer about 10 hours a week. The church has 350 members and I lead a church team that performs 20 tasks a week, helping facilitate service flow and aiding with any other needs.  I am also currently helping lead a youth outreach program.  Outside of school and church, I enjoy swimming, playing soccer, and basketball.

What are your plans for after you graduate?

My ultimate career goal is to be in a position where I can combine the quantitative skills I’ve obtained in my engineering degree with the business sense cultivated through my business-finance classes.  My plan is to use the combination of those skills to eventually either become a CEO of a large engineering firm, where I can influence strategy and build relationships with clients, or become CEO of my own firm where I can do the same.

By Robert Florida