Alyssa Arizola '23: From disaster to personal discovery

Alyssa Arizola ’23, Civil Engineering major

The worst part of the blackout was not being able to get in touch with her professors. When Alyssa Arizola and her family lost power for three days during the deadly winter storm that hit Texas last February, Arizola thought, They’re going to think I’m skipping class. They’re going to think I’m a bad student.

“I was stressing out. I should have been doing my homework. I should have been studying. And I couldn’t because I couldn’t charge my laptop,” she says. “I feel lucky that they were so understanding.”

So understanding, in fact, that they asked her to join a research project looking at energy poverty and the failure of the Texas power grid. Specifically, she’s exploring potential connections between socioeconomic status and the length of time communities went without power.

“Looking at how many people were without power and how long they went without it has been eye-opening,” she says. “I realized that experience was a piece of history that we lived through.” The project has been enlightening in other ways, too. Arizola had planned to pursue structural design, particularly of large houses, in part because she’s got a serious creative side, but also because she’s from a large family that’s always lived in too-small homes in not-so-great neighborhoods. But now, she’s increasingly interested in renewable energy and learning how to avert the looming crisis of climate change.

She’s also discovered that she really likes research. “Before Lehigh, I used to think of research like, oh, that sounds so boring. Who wants to sit in a lab all day? But being on this project and seeing the work of the other professors in the department has definitely changed my perspective.”

Next up: Amanda Baran >>

This profile is part of Resolve Magazine's Soaring Together series.

Photography by Douglas Benedict/Academic Image