Since high school, graduating senior Mateo Gomez knew that he wanted to study civil engineering in college. He also knew he wanted to move away from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Boston seemed like the perfect place.
Tufts was an easy choice.
“Tufts was the only engineering program I found, at least on the East Coast, that I could be an engineering student, but … my time at college wouldn’t [just] be engineering,” Gomez said. “I wouldn’t only have engineering friends, and I would be working on engineering problems that had a social implication or that were relevant to society. I feel like Tufts is one of the few schools that makes it a point to use engineering to have an impact on the world.”
Gomez majored in environmental engineering and minored in engineering management. He took a gap year in Nicaragua as part of the Tufts 1+4 Bridge Year Program, and during this time he became more interested in international issues related to engineering.
During his first year at Tufts, Gomez took a course called Engineering in Crisis with Professor Daniele Lantagne, an environmental engineer, and learned about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the country’s subsequent cholera outbreak. He saw connections to his time in Nicaragua, where access to clean drinking water was a common issue.
“Every day I’d have my two-liter Nalgene bottle and I’d add two drops of chlorine to treat my water to make it safe,” he said.
Ultimately, Gomez shifted from civil engineering to environmental engineering.
“I felt like the issues that I cared about aligned more with environmental engineering,” he said.
With his engineering experience, Gomez has accepted a job offer as a water resources engineer at Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc., an engineering design firm in the Boston area known widely as VHB. He’s still figuring out where he’ll be for the next few months, possibly Seattle or Mexico City, as he plans to start work remotely.
Outside of academics, Gomez has been involved in numerous activities across campus.
From being part of Encendido — Tufts’ only Latinx dance team — during his first year, to working at The Sink, Gomez has engaged in many aspects of campus life. He also served as the environmental chair for the Tufts chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers during his junior year, and taught a civic pathways course last summer for first-year students.
As a first-year, Gomez was a part of the Tufts Community Union Senate’s Education Committee. Being a part of the Senate helped Gomez learn to navigate campus.
“[This experience] taught me how to interact with administration and where resources were on campus, and I knew how to speak and who to speak to,” Gomez said.
Participating in the Senate also introduced Gomez to the TCU Senate Textbook Exchange, a program that offers students a cheaper option than purchasing textbooks through the bookstore. Gomez became the assistant director of the program during his sophomore year. He also became part of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day planning committee, which he worked on during his sophomore and junior years.
One of Gomez’s favorite parts of Tufts has been the 1+4 Bridge Year Program, in which he both participated and served as a peer mentor.
“There’s something to be said about shared experience,” he said. “Even if that experience isn’t exactly the same, just knowing this family of people that, for whatever reason, thought it made sense to just spend our first year of college abroad. I think that attracts a certain type of person, with a certain type of open-mindedness.”
Gomez also loved being a peer mentor and getting to see the students he worked with once they returned to campus after their year abroad.
“My favorite thing in the world is to work with young people and see them grow,” he said.
Gomez had a few pieces of wisdom for underclassmen, even though he didn’t feel qualified to be giving advice.
First off: Go after things you’re interested in.
“Don’t worry if you’re good enough, or if you think you’re qualified or if you think you’ll get it,” he said. “Go after it because you want it … It’s always worth it to go after what you want in life.”
He wanted to remind students to have fun throughout their time at Tufts.
“There’s always time for a dance break or to play good music or to … roll around on grass in the middle of studying,” he said. “There’s always time to have fun and to be goofy and to let your inner child come out.”
Lastly, Gomez encouraged students to find ways to give back to communities they care about.
“Find a way to be involved and it’ll make your time much, much richer,” he said.