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Trip highlights engineering job opportunities

Anna Boarini | Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Professor Joannes Westerink brought a collection of 44 civil engineering and geological science students out of the classroom and into the engineering field last weekend. The group traveled to New York City and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., to meet with firms and explore the university’s lab.

Westrink said the trip, which he has led for the past six years, is meant to highlight the various job prospects for the engineering students after graduation.

“What we’re trying to do with this trip is to really show what the possibilities are for a civil engineering career,” he said. “We are giving everybody a flavor of the possibilities of jobs and projects that require some really innovative civil engineering.”

In New York, the students visited AECOM, the civil engineering firm working on the Second Avenue subway line and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.

The students had the opportunity to explore the area around Ground Zero, according to junior Andrew Bartolini. They were not allowed to visit the actual construction site for security reasons, but were able to inspect it from afar.

The students also visited Skanska, a firm with a “green” focus. Representatives from the firm presented on Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Platinum certification.

Bartolini said the presentation gave him a new perspective on the extensive requirements of LEED certification.

“One of the requirements of having a Platinum certification is that the majority of your materials have to come from [less than] a certain mile-radius away,” he said. “It’s not something you really think about with green engineering.”

After the presentation, the students accompanied the Skanska engineers to their Brooklyn Bridge project site, where the firm is reconstructing the entrance ramps, Bartolini said.

“This was our most in-depth tour,” he said. “We got to see the huge machines that grind away at rock and soil when building the tunnel, and we got to go in one of the subway tunnels.”

Delving deeper into the project, the students also toured the facilities where the waste and byproducts from the construction were processed.

“We got to see where they take all the slurry and the dirt, where they clean it and then make it so they re-use the water,” Bartolini said. “It was just cool to see how it all works.”

The trip to Lehigh offered a look into the more academic side of the profession. Bartolini said the state-of-the-art lab is one of the largest in the nation.

“They have a lab that focuses on structure testing experiments that shows how fatigue affects a structure or how it might fail,” he said. “It’s one of the best testing facilities you can have.”

Westerink said he chooses juniors because they have built a foundation of engineering knowledge and are just beginning to look into post-graduate opportunities.

“By junior year, you really want to get an internship, but also the trip is a great time for the students to bond and get to know each other in the department,” he said. “They are really focusing themselves in terms of what they want to do and where they want to go.”

Bartolini said the trip was refreshing because it gave students a hands-on experience of the real-world applications of their work in the classroom.

“When you do it on paper, you don’t realize the scale that it is,” he said. “I know some of the times when we were in those tunnels it was awe-inspiring to see how large these projects are.”