Elizabeth Siu Studies Energy, Sustainability in Puerto Rico
By Mary Giuffrida
With the entire world at your feet, it’s easy to forget how many incredible and diverse places there are to discover closer to home. Elizabeth Siu found her academic adventure exploring a new culture in the American territory of Puerto Rico.
“I wanted to expand my skills and how I interact with the environment and people, and just spend time learning about a different cultural background,” she says.
The program was a joint venture between the college of engineering, and the University of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico. Her coursework consisted of two classes: an engineering course about biomedical device design, and a science, technology, and society course based around energy production and consumption on the island.
“I learned a lot about the connection between my place as a textile engineering major, and how I consume energy, and how moving forward we as a textile industry can be using energy more sustainably,” Siu explains.
The course challenged students from different disciplines to come together and consider their place in the world from an energy standpoint. They engaged in group discussions, examining the way their consumption affects the world around them.
“I saw how moving forward textiles could be a really big part of reducing the amount of energy we consume and making a more structurally supportive system that respects the people and the area itself,” she says. “I definitely feel like textiles is the future of sustainability in terms of energy production.”
While learning about the role textiles can play in protecting the island and the world as a whole, Siu had the opportunity to explore both the nature and culture of Puerto Rico. Along with the other students in her program, she spent time visiting various towns and areas around the island, soaking in every experience available to her.
“I just kind of fell in love with it,” Siu explains. “Just hearing the root of how Puerto Rican music influences what we listen to today, and how the architecture and history is more entwined with me and myself than I ever thought.”
As she discovered these connections between her interests and the music and history of Puerto Rico, Siu was also discovering a new sense of confidence and self-assuredness through her interactions with classmates.
“I definitely feel like I learned how to carry myself in a space and gained more confidence in the way I speak,” she says. “I found that I can find my space and find connections with people anywhere.”
Going forward Siu says she will carry the experiences she had in Puerto Rico with her throughout her personal life, as well as in her career in the textiles industry.
“It was a really influential part of my college experience,” she says. “I know a lot of people say it, but I feel like I’ve matured in a way that makes me feel like I can finish out college and then not just get that job, but really make an impact where I feel the most passionate.”