Carnegie Mellon University

Xulu Lui

July 20, 2018

MSTV/CEE Program Prepares Next Generation of Innovative Engineers

Xulu Liu knew that the dual degree Master of Science in Technology Ventures/Civil and Environmental Engineering (MSTV/CEE) program was right for her for two reasons she wants to start her own venture and she missed living on the west coast.

A native of Nantong, Jiangsu Province in China, Liu began her studies in San Diego before moving to Pittsburgh to attend CMU. "When I heard about the program during our CEE orientation, I was curious and did some research," she says.

Today, Liu is a member of the first graduating class of MSTV/CEE students. She completed her CEE studies in Pittsburgh, MSTV studies in CMU's Silicon Valley campus and an industry internship.

"The dual degree builds on the foundation and reputation of the traditional CEE coursework," says David Vey, Graduate Admissions and Recruiting Manager for CEE. He adds that the MSTV curriculum allows students to add hands-on skills to their existing engineering knowledge allowing them to launch careers that initiate change. We want to empower students to build the products and solutions to complex problems.

Liu has a passion for entrepreneurism and innovation and hopes to start a company in the smart home or smart building industry and she sought a program focused upon students who wish to use an engineering degree in a non-traditional way. She's enjoyed learning about small start-ups and has expanded her expertise in emerging technologies while meeting start-up founders, CTOs, CFOs and CIOs experiences that make the program realistic and unique, according to Liu.

"In Silicon Valley, it's easy for us to take field trips to great companies where we learn about the tech ecosystem, in person and in detail." She adds that her professors were supportive and experienced professionals who brought their own personal connections into the classroom. Their positions within the industry helped Liu to build her professional network.

Before she starts a company in China, Liu knows she needs to build her resume. "I want to get more working experience in mechanical design to learn more about the building environment, product design and product management," she explains. Her technology, product management, company law and fundamental finance for start-up coursework will provide a foundation for her company but her Silicon Valley internship showed her how to put it all to work.

"My internship was really hands-on in a small company that allowed me to be close to the founder," she states. Liu worked in engineering for the firm, which designs the third-generation LIDAR system for automated cars. "I combined my structural engineering knowledge with a real-world project working with the founder taught me things that I couldn't learn in books."

The internship also showed Liu how a start-up operates, how to prepare for future development, and that she wanted to begin her career working in product design. “Thanks to this experience, I found a new way to approach my career—instead of only looking for a civil/structural engineering position, I can look for product design or mechanical design opportunities. My internship helped me to get several interviews for mechanical engineering positions in LIDAR design.” Liu adds that the dual program is also beneficial to engineers who wish to enhance their leadership skills—and that studying in Pittsburgh and the Silicon Valley was an adventure.

“Silicon Valley is a great place for people who want innovate and create.” Vey mentions that splitting education between two areas is core to the program’s success. “The MSTV/CEE curriculum bridges the gaps between the past, present and future of industry.”