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Mechanical engineering graduate begins position at ExxonMobil in August

Mechanical engineering graduate Evan O’Brien ’07 (Carlisle, Pa) presented the results of his honors thesis at the 2007 Society of Experimental Mechanics (SEM) Annual Conference held June 3-6 in Springfield, Mass. O’Brien was one of 20 students accepted nationwide to present.

O’Brien conducted his thesis, “Multi-resolutional, Finite Element-based, Digital Image Correlation,” with Jeffrey Helm, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, as his adviser. His research consisted of “modifying the traditional, two-dimensional digital image correlation (DIC) algorithm into a finite-element based formulation,” O’Brien explains. “The research involved study into the traditional method of image correlation, study into finite element theory, and implementation of the theory through computer programming.”

O’Brien also recently obtained the position of plant engineer at ExxonMobil’s facility in Paulsboro, N.J. The position involves working with management to implement plant system modifications, verifying engineering designs (Exxon contracts their design work to smaller firms), coordinating various contractors, and troubleshooting plant systems as necessary. He will officially begin work Aug. 6.

“I wanted to first get some industry experience in order to ascertain what fields I would potentially be interested in for graduate school,” he says.

O’Brien attributes his success to the opportunities and mentoring from the exceptional faculty at Lafayette.

“First and foremost, is Dr. Helm,” he says. “He assisted me throughout my honors thesis and was integral in helping me complete my work.”

During his junior year, O’Brien also worked with Helm and Stephen Kurtz, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, on EXCEL research that involved testing fiber-reinforced polymers that could potentially be used to extend the lives of bridges. The EXCEL Scholars program enables students to conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend, which has helped make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

“Outside of [Helm], I found the entire mechanical engineering department to be outstanding,” O’Brien continues. “All of my professors did an excellent job and I feel ready to tackle the challenges of my job.”

Along side his studies, O’Brien was involved with Tau Beta Pi, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and Society of Experimental Mechanics (SEM). He also studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium, as a sophomore and, later, traveled to Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) for an interim session abroad trip.

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