Tomás Collado

Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science
Degree pursuing: BS in mechanical engineering
Hometown: Glen Rock, New Jersey

Why did you pick Washington University in St. Louis?

I picked WashU mainly for its collaborative environment. I like how everyone here is genuinely nice and friendly, rather than cutthroat or competitive. I can't think of a single rude or unfriendly person I've met during my time here.

Aside from that, I also liked how WashU focuses so much on hands-on work in engineering. In a lot of places, one really only ever learns the "theory" of engineering, but never really gets to use what they've learned until they start an actual job. Here, however, I've already been able to do a ton of cool things with my skills, including working at the Machine Shop and Light Metals Makerspace, both as a part of my classes and also separately as a member of the WU Rocketry team.

Finally, having the opportunity to join the amazing community of Langsdorf Fellows here at WashU really sealed the deal.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite course so far is probably MEMS101: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering. It was a super fun class where I got to work with fellow mechanical engineering majors on a bunch of fun projects, culminating in a challenge where we had to shoot rubber ducks over a wall into a swimming pool! My group ended up designing a risky concept, where we used a stomp rocket launcher to shoot the ducks over the wall, but it ended up working out well and we had one of the best scores in the entire class.

Who is your favorite instructor and why?

My favorite instructor so far would probably be Jeff Krampf, who teaches MEMS 101: Introduction to Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Design. He is a really interesting guy who has a lot of engineering knowledge and know-how, but at the same time is super funny and down-to-earth. He helped to make it a super-fun class that I looked forward to every time I had it.

What advice would you give to a new student?

My top tip to an incoming freshman would be to put yourself out there and meet people. It's definitely overwhelming to be in a new place with people you've never met before, but you shouldn't let that scare you. Take chances, make mistakes, and most of all, remember that everyone else is feeling the same as you. I met my friends here through a chance encounter that I never would have had had I not been willing to face my fears and go introduce myself to them after overhearing them talk about interests that I also shared. You never know — that person you are waiting in line with at the Bear’s Den or sitting next to in class could be your future best friend, and all you need to do is say hello.

Aside from that, make sure to block out time for yourself to relax and rest. One can't keep going at 100 percent forever, so it's important to take time to wind down. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

What is your favorite thing about St. Louis?

My favorite thing about St. Louis is probably the weather. We get a solid mix of seasons here in St. Louis, from warm summers (great for wandering around Forest Park!) to cool winters (with snow, so you can go sledding!), but it never gets too extreme. Plus, for whatever reason, we seem to get very few of those dreary rainy days, which is a plus!

What campus activities or groups would you recommend to a new student?

As a licensed pilot and member of the exec board, I've naturally got to vouch for the Aviation Club. If you've any interest whatsoever in aircraft design, learning to fly or anything else plane-related, definitely check us out!

Are you presently in the workforce or have any work history? If yes, please describe.

Here at WashU, I work as a tour guide for the McKelvey School of Engineering. I'm also applying to become a telescope operator for the Crow Observatory.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to focus on aerospace engineering as I continue my academic career here at WashU. I'm hoping to do the five-year program, and graduate with a BS in mechanical engineering and a MS in aerospace engineering. From there, I want to get involved in the space industry, specifically at NASA, and help to design the probes, rockets and missions that will help bring humanity back to the Moon, onwards to Mars, and then, one day, to the stars.