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Dreamer and Doer

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: August 7, 2019

A degree in engineering was appealing to Patty Dirlam for a number of reasons. First, she's very good at math and science [except for chemistry]. Secondly, she's interested in city planning, specifically transportation and traffic flow. Most important, however, is that engineering allows her to  use her unique skill set to make a difference in the world.

Dirlam, a junior majoring in civil engineering, believes participating is the key to being able to make the biggest difference, which is  why she has been involved in a variety of activities from her hometown in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to the Notre Dame campus and South Bend community, to her recent summer in Rome.

“It's a special thing to be able to sit at such iconic places as the Pantheon and Colosseum and feel like you are sitting in your backyard while tourists buzz around you ... or to play soccer by ancient aqueduct,” she says. “Being part of the study abroad program helped me find a new sense of independence and willingness to explore, to leave my comfort zone ... as well as teach me the fundamentals of engineering ethics and business practices, of course.”

Rome is only one of the “unforgettable experiences” Dirlam has had as an engineering undergraduate.

She has conducted research focused on advanced stress testing of 3D modeled structures in one other department's labs. She's interning for a Maryland based start-up that produces algae with advanced bioreactors and is actively applying for grants, including one through her department to study earthquake vulnerability of old Catholic churches in Italy over the summer. She is also involved in the Notre Dame Climbing Club and is pursuing a minor in 3D studio art (ceramics).