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News Release

Anna Lang: On the Road to Ph.D. and Olympic Medal

San Diego, CA, January 7, 2008 -- Anna Lang is a Ph.D. candidate at the Jacobs School of Engineering who has dedicated herself to elite-level cycling for three years and has become one of the fastest female track cyclists in the country. She is training to be a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Cycling Team and hopes to be named as an alternate for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

In just one season, Lang accumulated six top-five finishes on the national circuit and numerous regional wins. Recently, she has been racing exclusively on a velodrome track, where she discovered a talent for sprinting. “It is a talent I didn’t chase after,” she said. “I first started winning, then I started taking myself as seriously as my coaches did.”

Anna Lang, a Ph.D. candidate in UCSD's Structural Engineering Department, has won eight collegiate national championships in cycling.  Click for a Windows Media video.
Lang has been in the US National Talent Pool for two years and was a member of the national team at the 2007 Los Angeles World Cup. Her primary goal was to win a collegiate national championship, and she did, eight times over.

Although Lang has a proven ability to win road races, her strongest skill is sprinting in a velodrome. She also prefers riding on a track rather than the open road. “It is the sheer speed,” Lang said. “The track is so much more intense than the open road.”

Lang can go as fast as 45 mph at the velodrome and she said she uses her skills as a track sprinter to win road races. “I coast the whole race and will ride in the draft of other cyclists,” she said. “The race doesn’t start for me until the last couple of laps. Then it’s the positioning and sprinting to the line."

Lang has developed an increased desire to excel in cycling over the past couple years, but her original plan was to become an engineer. She has been passionate about earthquake engineering and hazard mitigation since she started studying engineering. She is from Marin County in California and began racing as an undergraduate at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where she received a bachelor's degree in architectural engineering. “My primary goal is to be an engineer,” she said. “But I discovered a talent and love for cycling, which I just can’t pass up right now.”

After graduating from Cal Poly, she worked for two years as a structural design consultant at a leading engineering firm designing multi-million-dollar homes in the San Francisco Bay area. However, a trip to Mexico motivated her to go back to school to get an advanced degree. “I was in a well-paying position,” she said. “I could have stayed and had a promising career, but I went to Mexico on a consulting trip after a major earthquake and it opened my eyes. It made me realize that what I was doing wasn’t what I wanted.” Lang said her goal as an engineer is to develop  earthquake-safe structures and policies in third-world countries. She  wants  to earn 


Anna Lang's 2007 Highlights

Road Races


Cougar Mountain Classic Criterium (NRC*)


Barrio Logan Grand Prix, California State Championships


 Valley of the Sun Stage Race -- Criterium


Crystal City Classic Criterium (NRC*)


Rochester Twilight Criterium (NRC*)


RFK Stadium Criterium (Washington, D.C.)


US Criterium Nationals (Downers Grove, IL)


Manhattan Beach Grand Prix (NRC*)


Quod Knopf Sequoia Cycling Classic Criterium (NRC*)


Track Races


2k Pursuit, 500m (San Diego track record), Match Sprints, Team Sprint, & Omnium, Collegiate National Championships


500m, US Elite National Championships


Team Sprint, US Elite National Championships


Match Sprints, US Elite National Championships


Scratch Race, US Elite National Championships

   * National Racing Calendar
her Ph.D. so she can help others, yet she feels cycling is something she does for herself.

Lang came to the Jacobs School because of its prestigious engineering program. During her first year she did not enter cycling competitions in order to focus on her demanding coursework. but she was back on the bike during her first summer at UCSD. Eventually, she started racing and her wins fueled her desire to compete. “I know I have the ability to go very far in this sport,” Land said. “I haven’t reached my athletic potential; that alone is what drives me,” Lang said.

Lang has managed to balance an intense schedule between cycling and graduate school. She rides her bike for an hour and half before school and works out every evening after class. “I feel like I constantly have to switch hats between the cycling world and the academic world, but I need both,” she said.

Both cycling and engineering are dominated by men. Lang is one of only  eight women out of 58 students in the Structural Engineering Department's doctoral program. However, her experiences there have been positive. “I believe women in technical fields can bring unique perspectives to problems not  considered by males,” Lang said. “And it takes a confident, intelligent woman to step up and voice that perspective.”

Gil Hegemier, professor at the Jacobs School and chair of the Structural Engineering Department, served as Lang’s advisor. He said most female graduates from the Jacobs School have gone on to achieve success in the professional world and he predicts the same for Lang. “She is able to project herself nicely and she is very articulate,” Hegemier said. “If she were to teach I think she could walk into a state or federal agency and secure funding.”

Hegemier added that he has encouraged Lang to pursue her Olympic dream. “This is something that comes around once,” he said. “I suspect if she didn’t take a shot at this, she would really regret it.” Lang has about two years left to finish her PhD. During that time she will continue to study and train for the 2012 Olympic Games in London .

Media Contacts

Rex Graham
Jacobs School of Engineering

Christine Clark
UCSD Communications