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Senior Erin O’Brien of Carlisle, Pa., a Marquis Scholar enrolled in a dual-degree program in civil engineering and International Studies, has accepted a position in the structures department of Greenhorne & O’Mara (G & O), a civil engineering firm that specializes in highway design.

O’Brien served an internship during her summer break last year at the company’s Mechanicsburg, Pa., office on the transportation team, which is responsible for the design of roads, ramps, interchanges, etc. The Mechanicsburg office also specializes in traffic engineering, environmental engineering, and structural engineering.

A shorter stint at the firm over the recent January interim session between semesters resulted in the job offer and O’Brien’s decision to accept it.

“At first, I wasn’t too keen on highway design,” O’Brien says. “I thought that I just wanted to do hydrology. After working in January and getting more responsibility, I realized that this is something I want to do. I love the people there, and the fact that my boss gave me the idea that I’ll get to do hydrology work in the future. Also, one of the big advantages is that it’s a fairly new office, so there will be opportunities to get involved in all aspects of a project and move up in the future.”

O’Brien met G & O representatives at the Career Fair sponsored by Lafayette’s Career Services department in the fall semester of the 2000-2001 school year. “During the second semester, I was seeking an internship within commuting distance of my home in Carlisle, so I contacted G & O,” she says. “After my interview with Rick Poplaski ’90, I knew that G & O was a place where I would love to work. To my great delight, they offered me the job.”

Before O’Brien starts her full-time position, she’ll present research May 19-22 on development of a hydrologic Geographical Information System database for the Bushkill Creek watershed at the 2002 Conference on Water Resources Planning and Management in Roanoke, Va. The conference is sponsored by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

As a participant in the EXCEL Scholars program, she has conducted the research with David Brandes, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Roger Ruggles, associate professor and head of civil and environmental engineering. In EXCEL, students collaborate closely with faculty members on research projects while earning a stipend. O’Brien’s project registered data with the Lehigh Planning Commission’s GIS, allowing correlation of spatial trends in hydrology, stream chemistry, and sedimentation with factors such as topography, geology, land use, and soil type.

The project is one of many aspects of O’Brien’s Lafayette experience that give her confidence about starting her career.

“I feel very well prepared, especially by the senior and junior (civil engineering) design classes, because I got to do actual designs and had experience writing reports and giving presentations, which is a big part of what you do in the real world,” she explains.

For her senior design project, O’Brien is one of 15 civil engineering seniors helping the borough of Alpha, N.J., decide what to do with its aging John Dolak Memorial Pool. Three teams of five students are developing proposals under the guidance of Ruggles and Art Kney, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Last year, O’Brien participated in several design projects, including one commissioned by the National Canal Museum, which sought to build an old-fashioned railroad bridge for its antique train.

“The projects help you learn how to work in groups, how to step up and be a leader and be in leadership with other people,” she says.

O’Brien spent Jan. 19-25 in Oslo, Norway, on a National Science Foundation-funded trip to exchange information about how the United States and Norway conduct environmental site assessments.

Mary J.S. Roth ’83, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, selected O’Brien to conduct unfinished business from the past academic year, when Roth pursued research in multi-electrode resistivity testing, a method of studying the soil and rock materials below the ground surface, at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in Oslo. O’Brien used the balance of an NSF grant awarded for Roth’s research, which also received funding through a Fulbright Grant.

Roth chose O’Brien because of her major in international studies and excellent performance in an environmental site assessment course developed by Roth and taught by Kney.

O’Brien was honored as one of the nation’s top undergraduate civil engineering students in the December 2001 issue of the national magazine CE News. She was among 40 students profiled in an annual feature called “Spotlight on Star Students.” Subscribers to CE News include 50,000 private practice owners, firm principals, project managers, and other licensed professionals in the civil engineering industry.

“I love the Lafayette civil and environmental engineering department, and I was thrilled to hear that it was chosen as one of the best in the nation,” says O’Brien. “I have been greatly aided by the skill and commitment of my wonderful professors, the support, encouragement, and ingenuity of my fellow students, and the dedication of the staff.”

A recipient of Lafayette’s Carroll Phillips Bassett Prize for Civil Engineering Juniors, O’Brien has been a key contributor in a number of distinctive academic collaborations.

She was also a member of a Lafayette student team that took third place in the Pennsylvania-Delaware Region of the 2001 National Concrete Canoe Competition, held April 28 at Peace Valley Park, Lake Galena, just north of Doylestown, Pa. The group accomplished this feat despite the fact that Lafayette had not fielded a team since 1997.

A member of the Lafayette chapters of the Society of Women Engineers and the American Society of Civil Engineers, O’Brien volunteers her time for the Bushkill Stream Monitoring Program. She has studied abroad in Spain and Belgium, and is proficient in Spanish.

As a Writing Associate in the College Writing Program, O’Brien assists students with their writing assignments in a First-Year Seminar called Biology and Society, taught by Bruce A. Young, associate professor of biology.

She is an active volunteer in sustained programs of community service that Lafayette students conduct each year through the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center. She is captain of the Poverty and Community Development team, which oversees six community service programs, including the prison-tutoring program, which she personally heads.

A Bible study leader for Lafayette Christian Fellowship, she has served as a campus tour guide for the admissions office.

Categorized in: Academic News