Growing up in San Juan Bautista, Vanessa Andrade loved hanging out with her father and his collection of cars and tractors.
She spent hours in the “barn” or shop, helping change the oil in cars, playing with tools and tinkering with her grandfather’s old Allis-Chalmers tractor. So perhaps it’s no surprise that this UC Merced senior — and Chancellor’s Scholar — found her academic calling in mechanical engineering.
On Dec. 15, Andrade will participate in the university’s fall commencement ceremony. She next plans to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
While she’s still weighing her initial career path after college, Andrade eventually hopes to follow the passion that took root in childhood.
“I’ve always been interested in cars,” she said. “My career goal would be to get into the automotive industry and design cars.”
Andrade was about 10 years old when she first started helping her dad, Greg, in the family shop. He works in manufacturing engineering, which she acknowledges as an influence on her path.
“If he wasn’t in engineering, I probably wouldn’t have known what it was,” Andrade said.
Academically, she excelled at math — even working as a tutor in high school — and her father and mother both encouraged her to take science and physics classes. But she wasn’t sure of her college plans until she was introduced to UC Merced and took a tour of the campus.
“This school is really what sold me,” Andrade said. “And I knew there were a lot of opportunities for internships here.”
She came to UC Merced as a first-year student in 2014; she first planned to study computer science. That lasted just one semester.
“It wasn’t for me,” Andrade said. Mechanical engineering was the perfect fit.
She wanted to pursue an engineering discipline that was expansive and flexible. Many industries — from automotive to food processing — need engineers who can design, develop and create everything from small parts to large systems.
I feel like there is a strong connection between the students and the professors. I love UC Merced — I wouldn’t have gone to another school.