Undergraduate student majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering.
Striving & Thriving at VCU talks to Sam about how he chose his STEM major, what influenced his career path, how he feels about being part of the black community as a STEM member, and more!
An interview with Sam
What interested you in the STEM career path/major that you chose?
Mechanical engineering is a lot about movement, like physics and stuff like that. That was really what interested me. When I was a kid I used to watch Jimmy Neutron and seeing all the rockets and things made me want to be “smart like Jimmy Neutron” and do things similar to him. And I work in aerospace so that is currently what I’m doing. So the inspirational jump from Jimmy Neutron is what led me to choose my major and career path.
Is there any experience that influenced your career path?
Back in high school, I used to run track, I was alright at it. I was good enough to go to college and play but I ended up having to come to a decision. The schools that had track didn’t have engineering but I wanted to be an engineer. So it was either, choose a different major and participate in track or just go into engineering. I came to VCU and the guide that I had was really nice in showing me around and that was pretty much the main deciding factor of why I came here.
How does it make you feel to be part of the black community and pursuing a career in STEM?
It definitely makes me feel proud. It makes me want to get as high as I can so I can help other people that want to be in the field as well. I’m still on my way there. It makes me nervous sometimes because I realize how little our margin of error is versus some other races. I try not to think about that though, I try to think about making my family proud and trying to increase everything as a whole.
Why do you think it is important to have minoritized groups represented in STEM?
We have a different life experience. I think with diverse life experiences, especially for the STEM fields, we’re going to be helping people. We want to be able to make things that reach everyone. We want to reach minorities with the things we create so it is really important to have our perspective on that.
What have been some of your favorite moments within your STEM journey so far?
My first time I drove up to my internship. I worked for an aerospace engineering company in Colorado. I drove up, and it just amazed me. The first time I got to see rockets and satellites and those types of things definitely did it for me.
30 Questions with Sam
What kind of clubs and organizations are you involved in?
I’m in the Peppas, I play drums. I’m in the National Society of Black Engineers. I’m in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP).
Favorite study spot on campus?
My dorm. I don’t really study that much outside of my room. I feel like I have to be locked in my space. If I had to be alone and study for the rest of my life I’d be fine.
What career path are you interested in after you graduate?
I’m interested in aerospace engineering.
How would you describe living in Richmond?
An adventure. Every day there is something happening here.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Energetic. Passionate. Outgoing.
Christmas. I love Christmas time, movies, and spirit.
Who do you respect and admire the most?
My grandmothers. They do a lot of work for our family. They raised families in single parent households.
What is the most rewarding thing about being in the STEM field?
Seeing the concepts of what you’re making present themselves. When you are seeing the drawings and blueprints of these plans and then you see it get built.
What is something you never thought you would see yourself doing?
Touching something that has been to Jupiter. Or touching anything that has been in space.
What do you do with the first 30 minutes of your day?
I have a very strict personal care routine. I wake up, I turn on music, I take a shower. I do my skincare. Then I start with the day.
Favorite thing to do after an exam?
Favorite ice cream flavor?
What is your zodiac sign?
Favorite place in Richmond?
Cooking or baking?
A place you want to travel to?
Go to a coffee shop order?
I like it sweet. Probably a macchiato.
Fried chicken livers with gravy
Sweets. Baked goods.
Sweet or salty?
What influenced you to choose a career in the STEM field?
The fact that I always wanted to explore and be creative and I really liked sciences and physics
What has been your biggest obstacle in this journey?
Learning the way I learn. Trying to be better at doing my work. Segmenting things.
If you could major in a non-STEM major, what would it be and why?
I really like writing and filmmaking. Even just editing.
Who is your favorite professor?
My UNIV 200 professor.
What has been your favorite STEM related course that you have taken so far?
The special topics course that I am in right now. It’s sort of an augmented reality type class. We’re learning about how VR works, VR headset, oculus rift, all of that. It’s really cool.
What is some advice you’d give to minoritized students in STEM/interested in STEM?
Try to seek out a mentor, somebody who has been through the same things and can help you. My mentors have helped me in big ways for sure.
Do you have a role model in the STEM field?
I have a lot, honestly. A lot of my senior managers, a lot of people at the company I work for. I worked at a company my freshman year so a lot of their managers. I just try to take from everyone.
What has been your least favorite STEM class that you’ve taken?
I’d probably say chemistry. I’ve never been good at chemistry, even since high school. Chemistry and me do not have a good relationship. I got through it, but it is still my least favorite.