Krystal McDoom (Architectural Engineering ’14)

Human-Centered Construction

By Simon Morrow

Krystal McDoom (Architectural Engineering ’14) serves as a translator of sorts in her role as a project manager at the University of Chicago, helping engineers and architects understand the needs of the university’s stakeholders and helping the stakeholders understand the possibilities and constraints based on the City of Chicago’s building code requirements, feasibility, budget, and schedule.

“Construction management is not as grimy and dirty as some people may think it is,” says McDoom. “There’s an art and a science to it that people who don’t work in this industry don’t typically realize.”

McDoom grew up in Saint Lucia, an island in the Caribbean. With an early knack for the technical, McDoom took her high school’s technical education track, through which she learned about topics such as technical drawing, building technology, electrical technology, and physics. With little access to tertiary education on her home island, McDoom earned an associate’s degree at a local community college and found a job as a civil engineering technician, helping engineers draw up plans and performing onsite supervision for quality control purposes. 

Then a unique partnership with the National Society of Black Engineers and Illinois Institute of Technology created a new opportunity: Several St. Lucians, including McDoom, were able to apply for Illinois Tech’s Presidential Scholarship, and McDoom was among those selected. She ventured to Chicago in 2010 in search of a brighter future, one she is now living out. 

McDoom recently completed managing the design and construction of a project called Mindworks for the University of Chicago. It’s a combination of a behavioral science laboratory and museum exhibit space that teaches people about how the mind interprets the world and empowers people with knowledge of unconscious biases. 

The project inspired her to consider how she might carry these ideas of behavioral science into a profession that she would like to help grow.

“I would really like to find a way to integrate several of these ideas and concepts about emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and behavioral science, and apply it to the construction industry,” McDoom says, adding: “Being a woman of color in an industry that’s still predominantly male, sometimes still poses some challenges. I would love to be part of helping increase people’s awareness to be part of that change.”