The Engineering Bond, and a Tribute

I’ve never been in the military, but I know some people who have and I’ve watched a few military based movies.  I know one of the basics for any young person entering the armed forces is to attend a boot camp where they wear you out physically and emotionally, forcing you to find your limits and also work with your fellow brethren, suffering by your side, to make it through alive.

I feel a very similar boot camp occurs in engineering school- only our lasts for 4 years and doesn’t require 100 pushup or a 5k run. (thankfully!- otherwise I may have never made it out).

The field of engineering came out of the military – civil engineers being the first.  As you might say the acorn did not fall far from the tree.

It’s not to say that this is completely a bad thing.  I am sure anyone having gone through military boot camp would say it was the hardest thing he or she had ever done.  That they learned perseverance and determination they never knew they had.  That they worked in teams to accomplish impossible tasks. (and probably that they found muscles they never knew they had either!)  If I surveyed various engineers, most would say something very similar.  Going through engineering school was hard.  There were long nights in labs with stinky lab partners, projects to complete with impossible deadlines, tests that seemed to require magical formulas you had never memorized, and rows of sleepless days where even a coffee IV didn’t seem to make you alert.

Looking back at it now, I have a fondness for that time.  Yes it was hard.  There was a singular focus to it that seems lost to me now in the working world.  I now have time and money to do whatever I want- pursue hobbies, cook, travel.  Yet I miss the camaraderie built with your fellow engineers when you’re just trying to help everyone stay sane, stay awake, and pass the class.

I formed a special bond with several fellow engineers throughout my time in school.  They were partners for projects, lab partners for a semester, problem set buddies who divvied up homework assignments with me.  Some I may not keep in contact with anymore, but if I ran into them again, the bond would still be there.  We shared a moment in time.  We helped each other through a struggle that neither of us could have done without the other.

The world lost one such friend a few months ago.  Yulin Wang went through the electrical engineering school at Cornell with me.  She had a quiet fierceness and a great sense of humor during those long nights.  She was super smart.  Whenever we were stuck and frustrated, she’d breathe, laugh, remind us of the deadline, and keep plugging along.  She never spoke poorly of anyone- even when the rest of us were complaining about a fellow student or a professor, she found the good.  Yulin found a job she loved at Applied Materials in Sunnyvale.  I ran into her at an alumni event a few years after we graduated and she was just as graceful, fun, and kind as ever.  I’m privileged to have shared so many great memories in my four years with her.

-In loving memory of Yulin Wang-

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike on September 12, 2011 at 1:19 am

    I think you described Yulin so very well… always smiling and laughing. there was never a bad day with her around… I miss her greatly.


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