Xanthe Thomas, a rising junior in Environmental Engineering, was named a finalist in the Daniel W. Mead Prize for Students from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The prize is awarded to students who write an outstanding paper on a professional ethics topic determined by the Committee on Student Members.
The prompt for the 2021 competition asked: “How should the civil engineering profession respond to [COVID-19,] and what are our ethical responsibilities associated with civil engineering related operations such as offices, universities, construction sites, exam centers, and transit systems in response to the pandemic?”
Thomas’s paper considered the ASCE’s code of ethics and how the tenets might be applied to combat COVID-19. Among the responsibilities of engineers, Thomas writes, are academic humility and realizing the limitations of one’s subfield. For materials engineering, this might involve weighing in on how to efficiently build healthcare infrastructure such as hospitals, and environmental engineers might use their expertise to develop safer ways to dispose of personal protective equipment such as face masks.
Students who are members of their university ASCE chapter are eligible to submit a paper for the Mead Prize, and each chapter can submit only one student paper for consideration. Five students are named finalists each year.
Thomas also credits fellow University of Michigan student Lily Ghandi, a rising sophomore studying art and design, with helping her throughout the writing process.