Brittany Russo

Brittany Russo, Geological Engineering - Class of 2019

Brittany Russo

Graduate program

Master of Science (MS) in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Graduation year


Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

I had originally chosen Civil Engineering as my undergraduate program. I knew in 1A that it was not a right fit for me, and it was not until I took the first year Earth Engineering course did I realize that I wanted to study Geological Engineering. After talking to professors in the department and Geological Engineering students I made the choice to switch. I liked the idea of the smaller program and being more specialized. The idea of being an engineer with an earth science background was really appealing along with the ability to be both a Professional Engineer and a Professional Geoscientist.

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

People say that high school are the best years of your life, but for me, it was the years that I spent at Waterloo. Even though the course work was demanding, I had a lot of fun. Between the field trips, study sessions, and extracurriculars, I learned a lot and met many amazing people along the way. I look back at the years I spent at Waterloo and have nothing by fond memories.

What were your favourite classes?

My favourite course while at Waterloo was the Engineering Geology course. I took this course in third year and it combined the earth science courses with the engineering courses. It showed how the knowledge of soil and rocks were important for understanding how to design rock slopes, tunnels, mines, and dams. It was interesting to have that bridge between the earth sciences and engineering and why it is so important to understand how to build and design with the Earth.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

Without the friends I made, I would not be where I am today. The friends you make are there for the ups and downs and having a good support network is everything while in university. My friends helped to motivate me and kept my morale up. They were supportive of everything I did and I could not imagine going through undergrad without them.

Co-op work term history

  • Ontario Ministry of Transportation, St. Catharines, ON – Winter Road Maintenance Engineering Assistant
  • SPL Consultants Limited, Toronto, ON – Geotechnical Engineering Assistant
  • Englobe Corporation, Kitchener, ON – Field Technician
  • United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California – Geophysicist Intern
  • Park Seismic, Shelton, Connecticut – Geophysicist Intern
  • Instituto Volcanological De Canarias (INVOLCAN), Tenerife, Spain – Seismology Intern

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

The biggest lesson I learned from co-op was that the opportunity that scares you the most is the one you should take. The scariest option is the one that you will grow the most from on both a personal level and a professional level.

What is your occupation now?

I am currently a PhD student in Geosystems Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley where my research is utilizing different imaging techniques to map the surface and subsurface of levees to try and design a more efficient and less biased method for inspection of these systems.

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

My undergraduate program did have a major role in where I am today. Without going through the Geological Engineering program, I would never have learned why it is so important to understand how society interacts with the Earth. I realized as an undergraduate that modern day society is dependent on Geological Engineering, either through building foundations, oil and gas, or mining. I saw how important it is to have well trained engineers, especially as climate change gets worse. This led me to want to continue my education and get a PhD so I can return to UWaterloo as a faculty member to train the next generation of Geological Engineers.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for help, especially from your TAs or professors. Asking for help is the best way to learn.
  2. You are not alone. Whatever you are feeling during your undergrad, chances are most of the class is feeling the same way. Getting help or talking to someone can really make a difference.
  3. Make goals and stay organized. This really helps you know what you need to get done and will help with your time management skills.

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