Humans of Fung: Priyaj Mehta, MEng ’20 (ME/Sustainable Energy)
On fostering professional connections within the MEng program.
Priyaj Mehta graduated from the Berkeley MEng in 2020 where he studied Mechanical Engineering with a focus on sustainable energy. Here, Priyaj speaks about his capstone experience and how networking within MEng helped him land his current role as Associate Mechanical Design Engineer at Tesla.
Can you share what your capstone project was about?
Within our capstone project, my team and I worked to design a modular floating solar unit that could be linked together to form a large scale solar farm to float on inland reservoirs. We did this in pursuit of the larger benefits of solar farming including; higher efficiency, better utilization of land, and low initial capital investment.
I was fortunate enough to take on a leadership role within my team of inspiring and bright students from around the world. It was a great experience to work and learn from my teammates and our wonderful team mentor: Prof. Tarek Zohdi.
How did your capstone experience prepare you for your current role?
In regards to my current role — Mechanical Design Engineer at Tesla — my capstone experience prepared me by teaching me how to efficiently manage my time while multitasking between capstone, academics, job searching, and how to be a succinct and effective technical communicator and presenter. These two takeaways have helped me to juggle multiple projects at a time and make sure I communicate important technical details accurately within my current job.
“MEng is an extremely well-designed program if you wish to get into the industry or into entrepreneurship. Professor Naeem Zafar’s boot camp classes are something I will never forget in my life.”
How has your capstone experience inspired or influenced your future career goals and aspirations?
I have always been interested in sustainable energy but the capstone experience allowed me to more directly contribute to the cause. This only fueled the fire in me to play a bigger role in the fight against climate change.
I was ten years old the first time I learned about global warming and climate change. I remember being absolutely shocked by the damage that we were doing to our own planet. I was horrified by the thought of losing all the beautiful things on this planet and there being nothing left for our future generations. This feeling grew in me over the years and was strengthened by gaining more knowledge about the ramifications of climate change and experiencing it first hand in the poor air quality in Mumbai.
My capstone experience allowed me, for the first time, to deep-dive into finding a solution that could aid in the fight against climate change. During the market research stage, it was so motivating to learn about the things that people are already trying to do to reduce our CO2 footprint. Additionally, the opportunity to actually visit a floating solar farm in Windsor and come up with our own business case and design gave me a taste of implementing a sustainable energy solution in the real world. This exposure instilled in me that I too can play a bigger part in climate action and inspired me to do everything I can to help reverse the detrimental effects of climate change.
How has MEng prepared you for leadership?
The diversity of skills that MEng imparted in me through the boot camp classes, leadership courses, and workshops have made me more aware of how teams and corporations work and have given me the confidence to tackle any challenges thrown at me by simulating inside the classroom.
How did working with a capstone team help prepare you for professional engineering environments?
Being a part of a capstone team is very similar to teamwork within a big corporation. Capstone team meetings, brainstorm sessions, documentation and planning were all of top professional quality and really reflect what it is like to be a professional in the engineering space. Additionally, our team’s regular check-ins with Alex Beliaev and the capstone team structure elevated the level of professionalism of the program.
Did connections made within the MEng program help you launch or accelerate in your current career?
One hundred percent! I met my current manager, Brian Mick, during the orientation of my MEng degree. Being an alumni of MEng himself, my current manager was a guest speaker during orientation. Connecting with him that day started off the process that ultimately landed me a job on his team.