Editor’s note: Full-length version of story.
Christiannah Holmes plans to pursue a career in civil and environmental engineering. She just isn’t sure yet whether it will be in water resources or green design.
“Both are related to helping the environment and lessening our carbon footprint, ” says Holmes, a University of Maine senior from Machias, Maine. “We’re getting to the stage when people are realizing we can’t keep using water the way we’ve been using it. People also are starting to look at their actions and are becoming more aware of the importance of green design for the future.”
Holmes, who was valedictorian of her high school class, received a UMaine Top Scholar scholarship award based on outstanding academic achievement. She came to UMaine for the quality of its engineering program. She chose civil and environmental engineering for the real-world applications of her academic experience.
“What I love most about the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department is we’re very close-knit. All the teachers are approachable. Their doors are always open,” she says. “Every Friday we go to Pat’s and eat with our professors. They’re very supportive and know us all by name. The networking is great, especially our ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) weekly meetings with professionals from the community. ”
For the past four summers, Holmes has worked as a land surveyor’s assistant for Integrated Land Services in Machias. In addition, during two summers she interned as an engineering technician with the U.S. Public Health Service. In Sacramento, Calif., she was involved in water and wastewater design projects for the Indian Health Service, and in Seattle, Wash., she helped conduct energy audits for the National Park Service.
“My internships prepared me for the business aspects of civil engineering — writing proposals, reviewing plan drafts and bids from contractors, pricing out expenses,” says Holmes.
This semester, Holmes is applying those skills to her senior capstone project. She is the project manager for a six-student team that is planning the redesign of a road that is deteriorating along the Souadabscook Stream in Hampden, Maine.
“It’s exciting to work with real clients and to have a real-life problem, to actually be able to come back in a couple years and see that we helped fix this. It’s an example of how civil engineers really give back to our community,” Holmes says.
In January, Holmes passed her Fundamentals in Engineering Exam, the first of two examinations engineers must pass for professional licensing.
At the 2008 Maine Transportation Conference, Holmes was one of four students from her transportation engineering class to present a paper on extending passenger rail service in the state. This semester, she also attended the winter conference of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
Her father, attorney Lyman Holmes, graduated from UMaine in 1970 with a degree in history.
Holmes is president of the UMaine chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. She also is a founding member of the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders and the scholarship chair of Alpha Phi sorority.
At UMaine, the former high school basketball standout has been active in intramural basketball. In 2008, long distance runner and avid hiker participated in the Black Bear Triathlon. Last year, she was elected UMaine homecoming queen. This past December, she started volunteering as a troop greeter at Bangor International Airport.
After she graduates in May, Holmes plans to move to Spain for language immersion and to participate in WWOOF — World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Next summer, she hopes to hike the Appalachian Trail before enrolling in graduate school.
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