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Civil engineering major Daniel Kucz ’07 (Newfoundland, Pa.) is being exposed to many aspects of his future field this summer at civil engineering firm Cherry Weber & Associates, P.C. in Phillipsburg, N.J. He is a structural civil engineering intern at a small firm where everyone makes a significant contribution.

Scott Minnich ’97, a professional engineer with the firm, arranged the internship and is Kucz’s supervisor.

“Dan is being exposed to nearly all facets of our structural engineering department, including review of supporting calculations,” says Minnich. “He is gaining great experience on why things are done certain ways and real-world understanding of the civil engineering business.”

Kucz is working on bridge inspection projects for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and assisting with quality assurance on other projects for the structural engineering department. Bridge safety inspections performed to satisfy federal regulations, which require inspections of all bridges with spans of more than 20 feet every two years, are a large part of Cherry Weber’s business.

“In the office, while reviewing a fabricator’s shop drawings or reviewing an engineer’s calculations, I am able to gain a wealth of knowledge related to how drawings are typically presented,” explains Kucz. “Understanding these relationships in the real world by being a part of them is something that may be overlooked in an academic setting.”

Kucz must know current NJDOT standards for bridges and safety procedures to assist in bridge inspections on three- and four-lane interstate bridges used by commuters traveling to New York City each day.

“The experience I am gaining in the field is immeasurable,” says Kucz. “With an interest in structures, particularly bridges, the bridge inspections I have been a part of are excellent [practice]. I am able to see how all the different parts of a bridge come together in full-scale, real-world proportions.”

His work with Cherry Weber is exposing Kucz to massive structures that only a practical experience such as an internship can provide.

“While checking the inadequacies, I am amazed at the size of the structures,” he says. “Sometimes during inspection, you may be standing under the connections [where the bridge beams and deck connect to the ground, or where the superstructure connects to the substructure] of a bridge, and the supporting beams are as deep as you are tall. While standing on the top of the bridge, often it is the case that you can actually feel the deflection from a large truck passing over the bridge. Feeling this deflection connects, on a very profound physical level, the things you learn in the classroom with the real-world applications.”

Minnich is impressed with Kucz’s performance on the job.

“Dan has performed above expectations,” he says. “He has integrated himself perfectly into the structural department and has become a valuable part of the team. We all have had great experiences at Lafayette and have a great sense of pride to instill some of our knowledge to a fellow ‘Pard. We could not be happier with having Dan as our intern, and we plan to continue to host summer internships.”

“These skills and experiences are invaluable when it comes to my future academics and future career,” Kucz adds. “What I learn now puts me that much more ahead when it comes to my career after graduating from Lafayette.”

Kucz has gained a wealth of knowledge from the firm’s other structural engineers, including Carl McGloughlin ’97 and Kevin Spagna ’97.

“Being a resident of Pennsylvania, I had some knowledge of roadway and bridge requirements in [the state], but I had little or no prior knowledge of NJDOT requirements,” he says. “Not only are these mentors good at being professional engineers, but they are good at being teachers.”

Kucz also praises the resources at Lafayette that helped him secure a valuable summer learning and professional experience.

“By aligning me with Cherry Weber & Associates, P.C., Career Services has nourished my hopes of becoming a professional engineer with a focus on structures, particularly bridges,” he says. “In addition, the steel bridge competition carried out in [civil engineering course] Structural Analysis and Design further developed my interest in bridges. This coming fall, I will be taking part in a steel bridge independent study along with three peers [Eric Backlund ’07 (Parlin, N.J.), Joe Danatzko ’07 (West Caldwell, N.J.), and Lee Vanzler ’07 (Sharon, Mass.)] supervised by Professor [Stephen] Kurtz, [assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering], which is centered around the annual American Institute of Steel Construction Student Steel Bridge Competition. This program is a great example of how Lafayette and the civil engineering professors have truly encouraged an evolution of my interests in civil engineering.”

Kucz is a member of the track and field team with gold academic standing and student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is a graduate of Wallenpaupack Area High School.

Categorized in: Academic News