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Structural engineering graduate program welcomes inaugural class

With the 2008 summer session underway, Lehigh’s new M.Eng. program in Structural Engineering has welcomed its inaugural class—14 students hailing from 10 undergraduate programs in seven states.

The M.Eng., or Master of Engineering, is a 10-month, project-intensive, graduate degree program designed to give newly-minted civil engineers a competitive advantage in the complex field of analyzing and designing large structures.

Leading this new program is new professor of practice Jennifer Hallowell Gross ’94’94. Gross, most recently senior project engineer with the Harman Group, earned a B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh and holds an M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

“I am excited to mentor students and pass along the knowledge I have gained from my years as a practicing structural engineer,” says Gross. “With the right knowledge and skills, young engineers can take on a great deal of responsibility quite early in their careers. This program provides an extra educational boost toward success in the structural engineering field, and does so in a relatively short amount of time.”

Projects on which Gross has worked include Gaylord National Harbor’s convention center and hotel complex in Oxon Hill, Md.; the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J.; and the Seuss Landing at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla.

Her new students come from all over the country, and include three returning Lehigh graduates.

“I was initially drawn to Lehigh by the academic reputation of its engineering school,” says Colin Temple, a graduate of Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. “I was further impressed by the faculty and the available testing facilities which I believe are the largest, at least in the East.”

Ryan Camp, from Boise State University, has a number of reasons for choosing Lehigh. “I’m from Idaho and I’ve been looking for a chance to live in a completely different part of the country,” he says. “And my discussions with civil engineering faculty have convinced me that this will be one of the best programs of its kind in the country.”

“The program is design-oriented,” adds Elizabeth Bava, a recent alumna of the University of Arizona in Tucson. “I want to get into the design of real structures, so I figured the Lehigh program was a good fit.”

Vinny Antes ’08, who holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh, says his Lehigh bias may have played a part in his decision to pursue the M.Eng. here. “But in the end,” he says, “it came down to the quality of the school and the program itself that ultimately sold me on Lehigh.”

Laboratory work in the program will cover both essential concepts in building design and analysis as well as cost management—valuable skills not necessarily delivered as part of a typical undergraduate curriculum.

The program delves into the design process and provides an overview of the various roles involved in a design project. Students organize into teams to complete projects based on real-world examples drawn from the program’s array of corporate partners.

“The teams will be responsible for the structural design of a building, from initial code review and load determination to final design of the gravity load and lateral load resisting systems,” says Gross. “They will come to understand all of the phases of a design project, who the team players are, and the role each player has in making the project a success.”

Although some of the design courses are more structured and team-based, says Gross, each student will complete an individual design project with elements of scholarly research and laboratory testing, and will also take field trips to construction sites and fabrication plants related to structural engineering.

Through the program’s advisory board, students will have opportunities to experience different aspects of structural engineering. Engineers from these firms will visit to share their experiences in the workplace and also to discuss forensic engineering and failure investigation, preservation and rehabilitation of buildings and bridges, repair of concrete structures, innovations in precast concrete design, and lateral systems in high-rise construction. The advisory board firms will also host students for three- to five-day “externships” that provide a glimpse into the industry.

In the end, Boise State’s Ryan Camp says he hopes to learn about the business of structural engineering as well as the design process.

“I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing from some of the industry leaders who have become more involved in the decision-making and management part of the process.”

--Christine Rapp

Posted on Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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