Larissa Kunz ’15

"10-ENG program was a very positive experience and has opened a lot of doors for me."

Graduation Year: 2015

Why did you decide on Course X for your undergrad?

Going into undergrad, I was very interested in alternative energy, particularly alternative fuels. Having enjoyed chemistry, physics, and especially math courses in high school, I decided that Course X would be a good means of pursuing these interests and preparing myself for a career in fuels. To be honest, I did not know what chemical engineering was, but given that Course X graduates wind up going into a wide variety of different fields, I decided ChemE would give me a solid background even if my career goals were to change significantly.

What attracted you to 10-ENG?

I participated in the MITEI pre-orientation program DELTA, through which I learned about the energy studies minor and flexible degrees like 2-A. I wanted to learn about developments in energy research and decided to pursue an energy studies minor. 10-Eng was a new program at the time and was not particularly well-known. When I found out about 10-ENG at a Course X department overview session a couple months later, I realized that this program could help me better integrate my interest in energy into my ChemE coursework in addition to pursuing the energy studies minor. When the program became ABET accredited a year later, I decided to do it; naturally, I chose a concentration in energy. I hoped that this integration of an energy focus into my Course X coursework would teach me how to apply the skills and knowledge gained from a ChemE background to contemporary energy issues.

How was your experience in designing your own program?

The flexibility allowed by designing much of my own program enabled me to take courses I might not have been able to fit in as well otherwise. At the start of my first year, I looked through the MIT course catalog, course descriptions provided by MITEI, and Course 10 degree paths in order to put together a preliminary 4-year plan. As both my interests and some of the courses offered changed from year to year, I deviated from the original plan, but it nonetheless helped me easily organize my program and ensure I was meeting all requirements. My advisor, Professor Armstrong, helped me make a number of decisions about these deviations by making sure I know about new courses being offered and sharing his knowledge and opinions about the topics covered in certain courses.

What are you doing now? Did 10-ENG help you with your career or personal growth?

I am now participating in the Course X M.S.CEP program. While doing 10-ENG gave me a better understanding of progress and limitations in the energy industry, I still took many of the same classes as those students doing straight X; while I was originally concerned that deviating from the traditional ChemE coursework might present a disadvantage in the M.S.CEP program, I have not found this to be an issue. Instead, the more flexible degree enabled me to focus more on my interest in energy, and I look forward to applying my improved understanding of problems in energy to my future research and/or work in industry.

Do you think Course 10-ENG would be beneficial for MIT and Course X undergrads?

I would recommend 10-ENG to anyone with a strong interest in one of the 10-ENG concentrations, especially if you want to take a relatively large number of courses in that concentration area or if you are fairly certain that you want to pursue a career in that field. The concentrations are broad enough that you do not narrow in your career options, in my opinion; instead it helps you shift your knowledge and skill set towards the interdisciplinary field you are interested in.

Do you have any other thoughts about your personal 10-ENG path or the program in general?

Putting together a plan - or more accurately several potential plans - for all of my undergraduate courses wound up being really helpful in making decisions about my program along the way. Between that and the help of my advisor and a couple other professors I had, putting together my 10-ENG program wound up being easy, and the program was a very positive experience and has opened a lot of doors for me.