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New graduate program in structural engineering welcomes inaugural class

With the 2008 summer session underway, Lehigh’s M.Eng. program in Structural Engineering has welcomed its inaugural class — fourteen students hailing from ten undergraduate programs across seven states. The M.Eng., or Master of Engineering, is a ten-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 and Lehigh alumna, Jennifer Hallowell Gross, ‘94, P.E. Gross — most recently Senior Project Engineer with The Harman Group — graduated from Lehigh with a B.S. in Civil Engineering before attending The University of Texas at Austin for her masters in the same subject.

“I am excited to mentor students and pass along the knowledge I have gained from my years as a practicing structural engineer,” she says. “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.”

The students come from all over the country. Three are returning Lehigh graduates, with others from schools as far west as Idaho, as far south as Arizona, and as far north as Massachusetts.

“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, MA. “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 just this year earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Lehigh, said that 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 within the program will focus on teaching 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, she says, each student will complete an individual design project with elements of scholarly research and laboratory testing, and will go on a number of field trips to construction sites and fabrication plants related to structural engineering.

Through the program’s advisory board, students will have a number of opportunities to experience different aspects of structural engineering. Engineers from these firms will visit to share their experiences in the workplace and other information about areas of expertise including 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 3-5 day “externships” that provide a glimpse of the industry.

In the end, Camp 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 23, 2008

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