From Forests to Bridges: Jun Wang Earns PhD in Civil Engineering

November 30, 2020

If anyone knows about dedication and commitment to a goal, it’s Jun Wang. The fall 2020 graduate has spent nearly her entire adulthood in higher education, earning her undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and most recently her PhD, all in civil engineering.

After celebrating her PhD from the College of Engineering, Design and Computing at the Dec. 12 fall 2020 commencement ceremony, Jun’s academic journey will continue as she begins working on her PostDoc, focusing her research on concrete- and durability-related civil engineering. In other words, the design, construction, and operation of major roadways, which are essential to the development of urban and rural areas—and to how people like you and I travel from place to place.

“To think that students with my degree design the bridges you see every day, that makes me feel very proud,” said Jun MS ’20, adding, “I love that civil engineering really relates to people’s lives.”

Born and raised in China, Jun studied forestry engineering—eventually switching to civil engineering—at Northeast Forestry University, which happens to be a global partner of CU Denver. She jumped at the opportunity to pursue her master’s degree at the downtown Denver campus and quickly took a liking to the culinary scene, the people, and the new way of learning. She explains: “During my undergrad in China, I didn’t have a lot of space to explore my interests. At CU Denver, I have more freedom to pursue new ideas and projects.”

In one of her favorite projects, Jun worked with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to evaluate the effects of “ultra-high performance concrete,” characterized by its remarkable mechanical and durability properties. She worked with her academic advisor, Jimmy Kim, PhD, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, on four publications (two have been published, one accepted, and one submitted).

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Jun’s interest in computer simulation and public works, bridges in particular, led her to pursue a master’s degree and subsequently a PhD in civil engineering at CU Denver—which altogether took seven long, challenging, and very rewarding years. Along the way, she worked for the Office of International Affairs (OIA) as a student assistant. The job exposed her to a multicultural environment and broadened her horizons, she said.

Looking back on her academic journey, Jun’s grateful for the free online resources available to her as a student, such as YouTube and Google Colab, the supportive faculty at CU Denver, and the opportunity to explore a new culture. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she spent her weekends hanging out with friends, trying new restaurants in the city, and studying. Coming from a densely populated region in China, she’s especially enjoyed finding quiet places to study on CU Denver’s scenic campus.

Jun will eventually return to China to work as a faculty member at a university, but CU Denver will always hold a special place in her heart. “I really like the education here, but my family is in China,” she said. “For now, I still have more to learn.”