Photo by Johanna Carson
Emma Knight finished her mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree in 2016, but she keeps coming back to Oregon State.
Her first job after graduating was as a mechanical designer with Systems West Engineers, in Springfield. That brought her back to the Corvallis campus to conduct pre-analysis for what would become the four-year, $159 million Cordley Hall renewal project, scheduled for completion in 2024.
“Being back at Oregon State was quite a full-circle moment,” Knight said.
That circle looped around again in 2021, when Knight became a project manager for Portland-based McKinstry. Her first project was at Cordley Hall, where she handled the plumbing, restroom fixtures, water and waste vents, lab gases, and specialized lab systems.
“It was fun returning to campus, first with Systems West and seeing the project early, and now being a project manager at McKinstry,” Knight said. “It was pure coincidence that it happened like this.”
Knight’s career journey began at Sherwood High School, where she signed up for an engineering course to fulfill a technology requirement.
“In a class of around 30 students, I was one of two girls,” Knight said. “My teacher and I started thinking about what’s deterring girls from signing up for a class like that.”
Knight worked with teachers during her sophomore and junior years to create an all-girls hybrid engineering-carpentry course, which she took when it debuted her senior year. The course was immediately popular, filling two sections with more than 30 students each. That experience bolstered Knight’s confidence to continue studying engineering.
At Oregon State, Knight served as an undergraduate teaching assistant in lab-based engineering classes, completed two internships, and joined Pi Tau Sigma, the international honor society for mechanical engineers. She also participated in Global Formula Racing as part of the team that tested their race car’s carbon fiber chassis and performed stress analysis.
“I taught my fellow team members how to properly lay the carbon fiber and in what orientations to get the strength or lightness we wanted,” Knight said. “It was a cool, hands-on experience.”
Knight says the biggest influence on her development at Oregon State was helping with the launch of the College of Engineering’s Leadership Academy and serving as a student ambassador.
“Being a student ambassador led to other opportunities within the college,” Knight said. “It allowed me to develop many soft skills that I use day to day now as a project manager, like learning how to talk to people and present to groups.”