Leonora Meroth defies the common misperception that engineers are better at interacting with things than with people.
The civil engineering sophomore says that as a shy child she was encouraged by her parents, who were insurance agents, to go out and talk to clients.
“That’s helped me to go into places like SpaceX with all the other older interns and say, ‘Hello, my name is …’ ” says Meroth. “I was raised in a social atmosphere and one of experimentation, adventure and trying new things.”
It’s that spirit of adventure that enabled her to put herself out there and apply for an internship at SpaceX as a freshman and a civil engineering major. When she was accepted, she was both ecstatic and shocked.
“I am so glad I put myself out there,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything better than playing with rockets all summer.”
Once at SpaceX in nearby Hawthorne, California, Meroth was able to broaden her engineering skill base. But it was working with people on a team that she especially loved. It’s the same at LMU, she says, where she has also done a lot of work in teams.
“The best part about LMU is the people,” Meroth says. “Every interaction with students, professors, supervisors has been very positive. I don’t think I realized how much the people around me would influence me and contribute to who I am.”
Meroth talks to prospective students about LMU and the engineering department as part of the Student Ambassador program. “Most people wouldn’t want to get in front of 200 people and talk about themselves,” she says. “I really love sharing my LMU experience—it’s been really great.”
Collaboration with a professor this past year to analyze soil mass failures in the laboratory helped Meroth focus her path toward geotechnical engineering, a subspecialty of civil engineering.
Although Los Angeles offers a range of opportunities—from Disney to the Port of Los Angeles to civil engineering companies—Meroth will return to SpaceX this summer as a production intern.
She will move back to campus early this fall to help incoming students find work through Student Employment Services, where she works year round.
One thing she’s especially excited about in the upcoming semester is studying Japanese as part of the honor’s program. Her mother, who is Japanese and Mexican, and her grandmother, who is Japanese, both speak the language fluently.