Student Spotlight: Julia Francesca Santos (BSED 2020)

Charlotte Collins

Julia Francesca Santos started out somewhat unsure about her place within Engineering at Illinois. 

She initially wanted to study bioengineering as her first step in entering the medical field, but after learning she was put into systems engineering, she decided to give it a try before transferring. 

Now a sophomore, she’s made a home for herself at ISE. Santos is heavily involved in engineering extracurriculars and has held several leadership positions. She has also received multiple honors within the college, most recently the Daniel P. Krueger Scholarship and a Sophomore Service Award. She participated in Illinithon and Engineering Freshman Council’s Service Committee throughout her first year on campus and is now focusing on her work with the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, or IISE. Santos has been on IISE’s executive board for the past two years and has been elected to serve a third.

“I fell in love [with systems engineering] after I went to the Regionals Conference in Chicago, where I got to learn about systems and industrial engineering in the actual industry,” said Santos. “And I realized that I love all the different types of engineering, that I wouldn’t want to pick just one, and systems allows me to explore every engineering and focus on what I want to learn, too.”

With her newfound understanding of ISE’s multidisciplinarity, Santos went back to her hometown of Bartlett, Illinois to spread the word.

In November, she spoke to students at her alma mater, Bartlett High School Academy, about how engineering can provide a path regardless of where they hope to take their careers.

“I really want other students to know that there’s a way to be an engineer but still do all the other cool things you want to do in life, whether that be like going to med school, law school, being in business, having your own business, honestly you could apply it to anything” says Santos. “And we don’t really know about industrial or systems engineers, so I want to give everyone that option to combine engineering with things that they love.”

As for her own path, Santos knows she’ll still go into the medical field, but she has plenty to explore before she arrives at her destination.

In the coming months, she'll narrow her focus down into her secondary field option. Students receive a more general education across the engineering sciences in the beginning of their ISE education before zeroing in on their secondary field options, which include disciplines like computer science, internet of things and civil engineering, as well as an option to create a unique secondary field option. 

She's not 100 percent sure yet which direction she'll take, but she's happy her systems major has provided a map to med school with many alternative routes to choose from.

“I need to figure out if I’d want to build robots that would go into hospitals, or really try to get my chemistry and bio in, whether I go into prosthetics, or ECE type things, or CS,” says Santos. “And that's the beauty of it all, because systems really lets me have the freedom and there’s really no restriction at all as long as it helps me get into the career that I want to do.”

Santos and Alexander Berube receiving 2018 ISE Sophomore Service awards. Santos also received the 2018 Daniel P. Krueger scholarship.
Santos and Alexander Berube receiving 2018 ISE Sophomore Service awards. Santos also received the 2018 Daniel P. Krueger scholarship.

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