The Durham Post: Through the Eyes of the Student
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Life on the Road
Though busy with work, Derek did find time to enjoy each location he visited.
Derek Bierd is a graduate of our Construction Engineering program. While blogs normally come from our students, I asked Derek, as a recent graduate, if he might add a few stories regarding life post-college. Here is Derek's first post.
This past summer, I was fortunate to be selected for a special group of engineers that would travel around the United States and train projects on ever-changing Kiewit systems. I was chosen for this "SWAT team" position along with four other engineers to train on our new SAP-based purchasing program. From April through September, I traveled to eleven states. A few times, I was on one coast the first week and the other coast the following week!
I was able to take in nearly a dozen MLB games and enjoy excellent food in every city: deep dish pizza in Chicago, smoky southern barbecue in Houston and Dallas, fresh fish in Seattle, and even a strange assortment of bacon-topped donuts in Portland.
All fun aside, I had the most memorable six months of my professional career while in this temporary role. I was tasked with training employees and extinguishing fires caused by lack of knowledge about the system; at the end of my tenure, I had trained several hundred individuals and visited ten different Kiewit districts. This was a unique opportunity to see the variety of projects Kiewit builds in addition to different construction methods.
Now, I have moved on to a full time field engineering role for a project on the east coast. The SWAT team roles have dissolved into a home-office function. Perhaps you could say I completed my "mission"...?
UNL Homecoming Week
Homecoming week at UNL was incredibly chaotic, but also an incredibly fun week. The week kicked off with a 5K fun run on Sunday, around 30 girls in my sorority ran the 5K and the rest of us went to cheer them on. The next evening after finishing a chapter meeting, I went to Monday Night Live with my sorority to watch our skit. Monday Night Live is a skit and dance competition that most of the greeks on campus and several organizations compete in for points towards homecoming. Tuesday and Wednesday flew by with turning in projects and Spanish tests. In the meantime it seemed like all of my friends were rolling up their sleeves and donating blood for the homecoming blood drive.
One of the most stressful yet fulfilling events of the week for me was my sorority’s philanthropy, Karaoke for a Cure, which raises money for Autism Speaks. I am the Programs Vice President of my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, which puts me in the position of overseeing our chapter’s philanthropy among other things. We served up homegrown Nebraskan pulled pork and hot dogs while being serenaded by friends singing karaoke. The evening quickly got chaotic with tornado warnings in the area, but we persevered and still had a great time.
One of the most exciting things of the evening actually came from the homecoming concert getting canceled; Craig Morgan stopped by to say hi to everyone and eat some pulled pork. It was a late night with the event running until 2 AM, but with great company and lots of caffeine I made it.
The next morning however was a little more challenging with a Spanish test at 9:30 AM, but further excitement of homecoming week kept me going. I had the chance Friday morning to catch my friend Lacy on a CNN segment about the biggest fan competition for homecoming week. It was really cool to see one of my friends and sisters representing Husker nation on national television. I headed for my internship at Boyd Jones Construction in the afternoon and after I got off work I pretty much slept until the homecoming game Saturday. Having been raised a Husker in Illini country, it was exciting to Nebraska crush Illinois in the homecoming game.
Gretchen Gould, middle, and her sorority sisters kept busy during homecoming week at UNL.
My Visit to the Minot AFB, ND
Caitlin spending some rare downtime at the International Peace Garden located at the Canadian border.
This summer, I accepted an intern position with the US Army Corps of Engineers here at the Omaha District. Within the first week, I was already applying what I learned in classes to real life experiences. I was able to tour several projects and get a real hands-on feel to match what went on in the classroom.
For the last couple weeks of summer, I was able to fly to Minot, ND and stay on the Air Force Base. The project was replacing a 2000-foot span at the end of the runway on the base. There were contractors there to tear out existing concrete, replace it with new, and every little job in-between. This was also very cool because there were several B-52 bombers lined up each day, taking off and landing on the part of the runway that was still functional. It was incredibly loud but awesome to see. There is also no greater feeling of safety than being on an Air Force Base. Everybody was dressed in military clothes and at several intersections, there was a Humvee parked with assault weapons pointed in every direction from the top. It was intimidating at first; I was worried I would forget a turn signal and then be their target! But you get used to it and it becomes a great feeling of comfort. I would arrive at the job trailer before the sun rose in the morning, and I was usually there long after the sun set.
Career Fair Time
This last September, the Durham School hosted its annual career fair and over 35 companies attended while representing engineering and construction firms from across the country. Students from architectural engineering, construction engineering, construction management, and civil engineering came to the Scott Conference Center, and as always, it was quite an event!
At the Career Fair Welcome Reception the night before, there was a vibrant, chatty atmosphere in a room full of students, professionals, and some faculty. I enjoyed some interesting conversations with companies I would later meet at the career fair. Mostly, I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing I could go to the Career Fair and feel comfortable while talking with companies.
The career fair also seemed even better than in past years, and it was great to finally be a junior, to see the way a representative’s eyes spark when they realize you’re an eager upperclassman, and to become familiar with these companies over the years and appreciate the diversity they have to offer. I even heard a few stories of how Durham School alumni are valued in the industry. All of these were good things.
I am excited for the future possibilities of an internship with the potential to travel elsewhere for a summer. (Fingers crossed!) Perhaps I will find myself interning for an engineering firm in Omaha, working in Chicago for WJE doing structural testing and engineering related to rehabilitation of historic buildings, or go to one of Zachry’s offices around the country, where structural interns get to dive into structural engineering and steel design rather than work their way up from some computer drafting or redlining. Either way, an internship experience would add a new layer of experiences to my schoolwork.
One of the best parts was returning to my engineering classes to hear the excited musings of the next-day interviews my fellow classmates were preparing for— interviews with HDR, Kiewit, and other firms. Even our acoustics lecture seemed especially stimulating that day, so perhaps we should wear formal business clothes to class more often!
Engineering a Break
Coming Back for More!
Again, everywhere you looked there were Husker fans all in red. After walking around the Haymarket area we stumbled into the Pinnacle Arena (Lincoln’s newest gem) and had the opportunity to wonder a bit and take in all of the new building. It is going to be an amazing addition to Lincoln’s social scene and may give the Century Link Center in Omaha a little bit of healthy competition. (See me pictured below).
The game was amazing just like the first one was, and this time we even had better seats (by getting there early!). This game was exciting and the Huskers played much better than the first one. I think that they just had to shake some of the cobwebs off and get back into it.
This time the band played a medley of boy band favorites! They were fabulous and I can’t wait to see what they play next week.
Go Big Red!
Kicking Off The Season
Everywhere you looked was a sea of red! We arrived in Lincoln about four hours before the game. My parents (both UNL and UNO alums) wrangled themselves tickets and were able to show us around for our first Husker game day experience.
We watched and listened to the marching band warm up and play a few songs. Then we followed them as they marched and played their way to the stadium. At gate 1, we entered the stadium along with the other Omaha Campus Engineering students. All of us being so excited! Finally it was game time! We could not wait for the game to start!
The band entered the field, playing music that just got the crowd roaring and ready for our Huskers to come out and play. And then, dun dun dunnnn the Huskers came! All in crimson and cream ready for the game to start! It was a fabulous game and was a great kick off to the season. I cannot wait to go to the next home game.
Go Big Red!
Research in Turkey: Introduction
It has been an amazing experience to be a part of this team. I am very grateful to Dr. Erdogmus for bringing us to Turkey and for working so incredibly hard while writing paper after paper and proposal after proposal in order to have the funds to bring students. Through her efforts, we are given a sense of support, a source of challenge and inspiration, and new responsibilities with interesting projects. I am so thankful for her faith in me, her willingness to pick the young sophomore from her research team, and for all of these new experiences with nondestructive testing in the lab and now in the field. All in all, the experience of being on her research team is priceless, and she makes us better than we could ever be on our own.
This trip has certainly been one of discovery, and I’ve learned so much about the many possibilities of research, the Turkish culture with its the lovely cups of cay (tea), and how, despite all odds and language barriers, we could still find a sense of community in this faraway but beautiful part of the world. So, in short, teşekkürler. Thank you, because this experience has been far more than I could have ever imagined.
(Below is an excerpt from Kates Turkey blog.)
Working on site
After breakfast, we would walk downhill to the site where Dr. Townsend and Jeri (one of Dr. Hoff’s graduate students) were working on studying the details of the blocks to determine their original arrangement in the structure.
The site was so much more extensive than I had imagined, and even Ariel was amazed by how much had been done since she had worked on the temple site two years prior. I soon realized that we were not merely near the coast, but the temple is directly overlooking the Mediterranean. I merely had to lift my eyes from whatever block we were measuring to see this extensive sea of blue.