Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Julia Cosse

defaultName: Julia Cosse

Occupation: Graduate Student

Education (UR and additional): B.S. (Mechanical Engineering) University of Rochester 2008, M.S. (Aerospace Engineering) California Institute of Technology 2009, M2 (Fluid Mechanics) École Polytechnique (France) 2010, expecting to finish Ph.D. in Aeronautics from California Institute of Technology in 2014.

Current city/state of residence: Pasadena, CA


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

One of the things that I really liked about the University of Rochester curriculum was the fact that I wasn’t going to be tied down into one discipline. Many universities I was looking at would force you to transfer between colleges inside the university if you wanted to switch from psychology to engineering. Rochester allowed me to study whatever I felt like without having to jump through hoops.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

When I started at the University of Rochester I was torn between studying psychology and mechanical engineering so I enrolled in introductory courses in both. After my first year I realized that while I found psychology very interesting, engineering was a better fit for me. I’m very happy with the choice I made, and I’m also glad that I had the opportunity to wait on making that choice.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I worked at Todd International Theatre program as the master electrician. As such, I was responsible for the lighting in all of the plays, teaching and leading a group of students in setting up the various light effects for the shows. While this was a lot of work, it taught me a lot about how to organize and lead a group of people in a large-scale project. The theatre also has an incredible group of people that I really enjoyed working with.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I started graduate school the fall after I graduated from the University of Rochester. My senior year I applied to graduate schools (in the fall and winter) and attended several of the on campus recruiting events put on by the career center (late winter and spring). During this time I talked to several companies about what sorts of things I would be doing if I were to take a job straight out of undergrad. Ultimately I decided that graduate school would open the doors on opportunities I thought were most interesting (teaching and research).

How do you balance your work and personal life?

To be perfectly honest this is something I still struggle with. There is always a battle between personal and professional obligations, and I haven’t always done a good job of keeping my life balanced. While I certainly could improve this balance, my recent strategy is to avoid working on the weekends. Everyone needs some time for themselves to recuperate, and learning how to allow yourself to take that time is important.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

One of the best things that I did was getting involved in research early on. I was able to get an internship at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics during the spring term of my sophomore year. Following that, I spent two summers in research labs across the country, which provided me with a better understanding of what graduate school would entail. I think it’s incredibly important to put some thought into your career outside the classroom, and to find a few jobs or internships prior to graduating so that you have some real working experience and a better understanding of what you want to do after graduation.