Meet Bryant La, a third-year undergraduate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering here at UC Berkeley with a 4.0 GPA. Bryant is a first generation student and he is proud to be from Oakland. He is a valuable member of our community, serving as the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He grew up just east of Lake Merritt and is an alum of Oakland High School (H.S.). Bryant is also part of the College Track program. He was first introduced to the practical side of engineering as a member of the volunteer organization buildOn. As a volunteer, Bryant traveled to Nepal and Haiti where he dug out foundations, tied steel rebars together, and poured cement. The goal of the project was to establish permanent schools to withstand natural disasters by replacing structures made of wood and tarp. Reflecting back on this experience, Bryant said, “As a future engineer, it does not matter how large of a difference I make, what matters most is that I make one.” He is drawn to Mechanical Engineering because the profession allows him to create solutions to problems; for Bryant, being an engineer is a gratifying way to offer a direct service to a community.
As the son of Chinese immigrants, Bryant is a second-generation American. He acknowledges that he has succeeded at Berkeley because of his background, not in spite of it. While he did not have formal engineering opportunities in H.S., he does not see these limitations as a hurdle he needs to overcome, rather he is focused on ways he can use these experiences to his advantage. He offers some words of advice to new students:
“Compartmentalize your focus, zero in on what needs to be done, put out one fire out a time, and monotask. Do a good job at what you are currently doing, especially before you start worrying about the next thing—stress out about one thing rather than many things at once. The only high expectations you need to meet are your own, not someone else’s: rather than measuring your worth by comparing yourself to somebody else, define and live up to your own standards for success.”