Karen Vazquez

Headshot of Karen Vazquez


Major: Civil Engineering

Describe your work in a few sentences that we can all understand: Reduction in energy consumption and embodied carbon, both globally and locally, is often the goal for many forward-thinking consumers and builders. This project measures the embodied carbon of various buildings of similar designs to note which components of a home have the greatest impact on the overall carbon emission of the home and how those areas can be bettered from there. 

Q: Who mentors your project?

A:    Dr. Elaina J. Sutley in the Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering department.


Q: What surprised you about doing research?

A: What surprised me the most about doing research was how simple it was to begin the process. While the research itself was not simple, developing a routine and a working relationship with my mentor became quick and easy. I jumped into this research not expecting to have liked it as much as I do now.     


Q: What did you find most challenging about getting involved in or doing your project? What advice would you offer to students facing similar challenges?

A: The biggest challenge I faced was my own doubts in my ability. I didn't know if I was capable of providing the quality of work that was expected of me by my mentor and the program I was being supported by, because I was so new to the process. Eventually, the more I worked and the more I pushed forward, the easier it all became and the support I received from my work erased many of my doubts. I would advise anyone else who feels this way to just push forward with the process and follow your instincts, even if you feel it might lead you to failure.


Q: What do you like most about your project?

A:   I like not knowing what to expect. Sure, I can have a hypothesis or some vague idea of what I might see in my results, but I can never know until I finish what I've started. The best part about any project is that it never ends. It can expand to become something bigger and better than what was originally intended. What you start with isn't necessarily what you end with and the unpredictability keeps me on my toes.


Q: What advice would you give to a friend wanting to get involved in research?

A: If you don't do it, then who will? We all have questions we want answers to and maybe others have similar questions, but if you don't make the move to start looking for those answers, chances are no one else will for a long, long time. Making a connection with someone in the field you're interested in is the first step. 


Q: How do you spend your time when you're not working on your research?

A: In my spare time, I enjoy reading books that have little to no relation to the topic I'm studying or researching. I need my break and as the saying goes, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder."