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This Is How You Dig Deep

Amanda Wachenfeld, E15

On a quiet day, strolling the paths of the academic quad, shaded by brick and the sway of leafy elms, can feel like walking back in time. But Tufts isn’t actually that old.

Amanda Wachenfeld knows old. She has a penchant for earth and ocean sciences and for one of her engineering electives in her freshman year, she studied glaciers. The class went on field studies to examine the rock formations of Massachusetts and the Medford campus that was once covered in a sheet of ice. Fortunately by about 13,000 BCE, a glacier had melted down, cutting the landscape to form our beloved Hill. “It’s awe-inspiring to stand on the quad and think that this was once under frozen water.”

Getting to the bottom of things is crucial for Amanda. “I want to be a structural engineer, which is different than straight architecture. You’re designing large-scale projects, like massive bridges and dams that have the power to affect millions of lives,” she says. Her groundwater class is providing even more insight into the roots she needs for civil engineering. “Understanding how water moves when you dig deep, how it could shift the earth, is vital to keeping a structure standing.”

Being hands on has happily kept her in Anderson Hall for hours, sometimes all night. “In one class, Professor Eric Hines asked us to design a machine that can test the strength of joints but was made only out of wood and nails.” Thankfully it took nothing close to an Ice Age to complete. “When it was done, it was incredibly satisfying. And I knew I wanted to build and design things where I could always see the final product.”

As part of the National Concrete Canoe Competition, Amanda was hoping to see the end product of that design process, as well. “Everyone thinks, why a canoe made out of concrete?” she says with a laugh. From the computer design to the foam molds to the construction, “it’s all about the mixture, how much sand you use. It’s about the challenge.” Her varsity swimming schedule conflicted with the canoe team’s meetings, but she hopes to jump back into the project this fall.

Amanda says she could never give up swimming. “It literally keeps me afloat and gives me so much clarity.” Mentoring local girls through Strong Women Strong Girls and advocating for people with autism are other extracurriculars that put her in a good, humbling headspace. Far from the quintessential colonial town in New Jersey where she was raised, that diversity of her every day is what she values most at Tufts. “I have this amazing chance to do all of these things that I won’t be able to do after college, everything I’m passionate about all at once, and it’s awesome.”

Questions? Contact the Tufts Fund at  617.627.4930 |