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As carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other trades people work on the new student residence halls on campus, civil engineering major Cristin MacDonald ’05 (Glendora, N.J.) is hard at work analyzing the workers’ productivity and identifying ways to improve it.

“Construction productivity is said to be decreasing throughout the United States since 1970, while every other industry’s productivity has gone up,” says MacDonald, who is conducting the yearlong research for her senior honors thesis. “I’m arguing that a correct method of measuring productivity has not been found.”

MacDonald explains that in years past, construction workers rarely installed coordinated heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems, adhered to fewer environmental standards, and certainly didn’t include sophisticated cable and Internet access throughout buildings.

Although construction demands have become more complex, she says the commonly used measures of construction productivity, known as the “measured mile” and “baseline analysis” systems, have not changed.

“I am comparing the two systems of productivity measurement and seeing whether they affect productivity,” she says. “Similarly, I am examining whether a more detailed initial schedule would make productivity better.”

MacDonald meets twice a week with John Ricketts ’03, an engineer from Manhattan-based Turner Construction Co., which is overseeing the four-building residence hall project. The two examine weekly schedules and progress on the construction, and MacDonald uses the data in her analysis.

David Veshosky, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and MacDonald’s research adviser, says her work expands on research begun last year by Peter Totev ’04.

“She’s building on what Peter did by validating his methodology and extending his research in terms of benefits of ‘lean’ construction and obstacles to moving toward ‘green’ construction,” Veshosky says. “She’s doing a good job so far.”

MacDonald calls Veshosky a “caring and qualified mentor.”

“He has a phenomenal ability to keep steering me in the right direction, and is very up to date on the newest details about my research,” she says.

“Lafayette is an incredible school for civil and environmental engineering,” MacDonald adds. “I feel our department is like a family. The students are all very close and I definitely feel like the professors really do care about us. It’s a great atmosphere for everything, where people always seem to have a strong desire to help.”

A bioengineering minor, MacDonald completed EXCEL Scholars research last summer with Veshosky on a computer program to examine and resolve different scenarios that might occur on Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project, known as The Big Dig. The computer program, which will be published, is being used for project management and construction management classes on campus.

She worked on another EXCEL project last fall using a computer modeling system called ANSYS that may help young patients who require hip implants. The previous spring MacDonald was a member of a Lafayette team that developed an inexpensive method to remove arsenic from drinking water in New Mexico for the 13th annual International Environmental Design Contest.

She hopes to study biomedical engineering in graduate school.

MacDonald is a member of the swimming and diving team and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She also serves as an associate representative for Student Government. She is a graduate of Gloucester Catholic High School.

Veshosky has shared his research through articles in scientific journals, book chapters, and papers presented at conferences in the United States and Canada. He is a member of the research faculty at the Engineering Research Center for Advanced Technology for Large Structural Systems and a research associate at the Center for Innovation Management Studies. His past roles include researcher at the NATO Oceanographic Research Center in La Spezia, Italy; port and transportation industry consultant; and project manager for port studies in the United States, Kenya, and Egypt.

Honors thesis projects are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at last year’s annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News