Student Profile - Molly Ross

Engineering major Molly Ross finds passions in sustainability

Ohio-born Molly Ross is not the stereotypical engineering student— bookish, meticulous, and more skilled in the field than with people. A minority in the male-dominated discipline, the junior balances school and work with a variety of creative pursuits and an active social life. She views her unique characteristics as a personal advantage.

Molly Ross“I’m not wired like so many engineers who are brilliant but can’t communicate the knowledge or simplify it so that other people can understand it,” she said. “I feel like that is one of my strong points. I also think its also really important to have a social life even though I’m very focused on grades because all the life experiences pay off. Many students worried about their grades lose sight of that.”

The 21-year-old civil engineering major from Lumberton is a member of Lamar University’s Reaud Honors College and is involved in Chi Epsilon, an invitation-only civil engineering society for top students. She is also active in the engineering and technical science sorority, Alpha Omega Epsilon, where she has held the positions of president, vice president and secretary. Despite her packed schedule, Ross made time to co-op for ExxonMobil and intern for Huntsman, where she continues to work part time.

“I grew up in a single-parent home and it hasn’t always been easy. As soon as I was old enough to get a job, I started working, and I’ve been working ever since. That’s one of the reasons I’m able to balance school and work right now, because I’m just so used to it.”

Ross wants to focus her studies on renewable energy and sustainability. She envisions herself earning a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and working as a professor while doing research in the field. Alternatively, she said she’d love a job where she can combine her degree with one of her major interests, landscape photography.

“I’d really love to work for a major company like National Geographic where I could combine photography with research. It makes scientific papers more interesting to the average person because they don’t want to read the literature, but they’ll look at the pictures,” said Ross, who believes in the importance of public awareness in solving environmental issues.

Ross took advantage of Lamar University’s study abroad program to mix photography with her studies. Thanks to a scholarship from the LU Office of Study Abroad and a grant from the Reaud Honors College, Ross traveled to Iceland to study with the Green Program, a global renewable energy education network. She kept busy with classes and a capstone project to design a business model related to sustainability but still never missed an opportunity for a photo.

“Anytime we went anywhere I was trying to capture it on my camera, whether it was at a geothermal plant or on one of our many hiking trips. I enter photo contests when I can, especially National Geographic contests, and many of the photos from Iceland I've used for that purpose,” she explained.

Ross enjoys her studies at LU, but she says the courses are a true challenge. The future engineer feels reassured of her thorough preparation for the ambitious tasks ahead.

“There are a lot of extremes for renewable energy and sustainability, and there are a lot of people whose views are divided. I want to show both sides that we can work together with a combination of methods to promote sustainability. Some people think, ‘Oh, you care about the environment, you must want to take Exxon out of business,’ but that’s not how it has to be,” she said.

Ross is thankful for her time at LU and the opportunities it has offered her. Besides the co-op and internship with local industries, the studies abroad, and participation in several organizations, she was awarded the William M. Birdwell, Jr. and Sr. Endowed Scholarship for deserving students studying environmental science, her original major entering Lamar University. Ross currently receives the Charles and Susan Gordon and Julia Gordon Gray Memorial Scholarship for Texas students with outstanding academic achievements.

Once settled into her career, she hopes to give back to LU by helping to expand the programs for sustainability or environmental science or by adding a program for environmental engineering. Ross will graduate in May 2017.