Pratt Profile: Karah Kelly

PhD Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Advisors: Henry Gavin

Why did you choose Duke?

I ran across Duke at one of the National Society of Black Engineering conferences that I went to. I got in contact with a student here and she gave me really great advice. When I visited Duke all of the graduate students seemed to be really good friends, and that made my decision a lot easier. A few girls I stayed in touch with here told me that my advisor, Dr. Gavin, was a great advisor to have. Between all that, I just decided on Duke.

What does your research entail?

So far with my research we’re looking at base isolation systems for earthquakes. So basically, if the ground shakes, the building will sit on top of this platform and that will hopefully that will help reduce the acceleration displacement of each floor.

What’s it been like working with your advisor?

Working with Dr. Gavin has been great. He’s always available to help. He’s so patient with me. He’s just been so helpful. He helps me with classes he doesn’t even teach. He’s just been amazing.

What do you wish you’d known about graduate school before applying?

The one thing I wish I had known was to ask more questions to the current students, because they’re the ones who are doing what I’m doing now. When I was applying to graduate schools, I didn’t really use those resources as much as I wish I would have. I visited a couple of other schools, and after the fact I realized that the current graduate students knew exactly what I would be doing and that I didn’t talk to them enough.

I also wish that I had applied to more places. I guess I underestimated myself a lot more than I should have. I mean I like it here and I’m glad, but it took a lot for me to even apply here to begin with because I didn’t think I’d get in here to begin with. And so I wish I would have had that confidence.

How have you liked your time at Duke so far?

Duke’s a great school. I’ve had so much fun here. And I’ve realized that a lot of the graduate students are good friends, and I know when I visited other places, a lot of the graduate students seemed not as happy. They just seemed more stressed out. And coming here has been great. I’ve met a lot of friends in my program, and even at the orientation for just graduate students, I met people in other programs. There’s a lot to do, and it’s just a lot of fun here. You take school seriously, and that’s the most important thing, but there are a lot of events for you to get out and to meet people and to enjoy your time here as well.