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You are here: Home » REU Where Are They Now?

NEES REU Students: Where Are They Now?

Since 2006, the NEES REU program has positively influenced the careers -- and lives-- of 239 STEM undergraduates. The students each spent 10 weeks working at a NEES earthquake engineering test facility, researching an assigned component of a NEESR project. To cap-off the experience, students wrote papers on their findings and presented posters at a culminating conference.

To find out what our NEES REU students are up to in 2014, NEEScomm caught up with 9 former students. They tell their stories, below.

Cristian Acevedo

Cristian Acevedo

REU Cohort and site: 2010, University of California, Berkeley

Education:

  • Florida International University, BS in Civil Engineering, Minor in Mathematics (2011)
  • Stanford University, MS in Civil Engineering (2013)

Educational accomplishment: NSF Graduate Fellowship (2011)

Currently: PhD Candidate at Stanford University.

Acevedo mentored a PEER REU student in the summer of 2013 and NEES REU students Carlos McEniry and Ryan McNerney in summer 2014 on the NEESR project, “Seismically Isolated Unibody Residential Buildings for Enhanced Life-Cycle Performance.”

Personal or professional accomplishment:

  • Stanford Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) Chapter President (Present)
  • EERI Student Leadership Council (SLC)
    Secretary (2013 – Present)
  • Stanford EERI Chapter
    Vice-President (2013 - 2014)

What is your next professional goal?
“I would like to obtain my Professional Engineering (PE) license. After completing my PhD, I plan to work in industry as a consultant. There are a few companies I have in mind, Exponent being one of them. Although I plan to work in the industry, in the future I may teach part-time.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“The most valuable thing from my REU experience was Professor Jack Moehle’s mentorship. He gave me the opportunity to have hands-on experience and allowed me to design and test my own specimens.”

Brett Allen

Brett Allen

REU Cohort and Site: 2011, University of Nevada, Reno

Education:

  • Michigan Technological University, BS in Civil Engineering (2012)
  • University of Nevada, Reno, MS in Civil Engineering, Structural Engineering (December 2014)

Educational accomplishment:
Participated in the NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute (EAPSI) in Taiwan during the summer of 2014.

Currently:
Finishing his master’s degree at UNR and working as graduate research assistant on a post-tensioned web-cracking project with Professor David Sanders. He supervised REU student Erin Segal at UNR in summer 2014.

Personal or professional accomplishment:
Allen completed summer internships with the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2009 and 2010, and he worked at Kiewit Engineering Company during the summer of 2012.

What is your next professional goal?
“I’d like to go out and get a job in a structural engineering firm, a job with seismicity involved. I can’t wait to get some in-field experience. I’m interviewing now. I’d like to land somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, where there are mountains.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“Students get to understand the value of research, how much it can affect society. It’s so important. Without research we can’t create new techniques, new solutions.”


Daniel Alvarado

Daniel Alvarado

REU Cohort and Site:2008, University of California, Davis

Education:

  • Arizona State University, BS in Civil & Environmental Engineering (2009)
  • UC Berkeley, MS in Civil Engineering (2010)

Educational accomplishment:
Awarded a UC Berkeley Civil and Environmental Engineering Departmental graduate scholarship to study Project/Construction Management. Completed the program successfully in one year with certificates in Engineering & Business for Sustainability and Management of Technology through the Haas School of Business and College of Engineering.

Currently:
Special Projects Manager for the SF Public Utilities Commission’s Infrastructure Division.

Personal or professional accomplishment:

  • Becoming a licensed Professional Engineer (PE)
  • Working on the Transbay Transit Center Program (Bay Area bus services, high speed rail from Los Angeles, and retail)
  • Earning several water conservation awards as a team member working on the Orange County Great Park Master Plan
  • Alumni of Leadership San Francisco, Class of 2013 (sponsored through the SF Chamber of Commerce)
  • Joining the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

What is your next professional goal?
“For my one-year look ahead as a new employee at the City, I look forward to using my learned skills from previous projects and genuine positive outlook to work together with colleagues and the community toward the common goal of successful completion of projects. I aim to make a positive name for myself as an effective manager with a proactive attitude and proven results.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“Seeing what a graduate student actually does. The REU summer program gave me a chance to see what that academic avenue offered before committing to a specific master’s program. The experience was very different from being an undergraduate where the students are a lot younger with less experience and a different outlook on how to solve industry problems. I could see that the graduate student community was a smaller, tight-knit community that held more real-world industry experience to learn from and used collaboration to further advance what was being taught in the current classroom-required curriculum. Now having completed my grad school program, I appreciate its greater sense of community and breadth of focused curriculum available to pursue further knowledge on subjects of personal interest to me. It was a very fun and invaluable experience and I’ll always be appreciative to the REU program for introducing me to the graduate school and research world opportunities.”


Jamie (Hong) Chung

Jamie Hong

REU Cohort and Site:2006, University at Buffalo

Education:

  • UC Irvine, BS in Civil Engineering (2007)
  • UC Berkeley, MS in Civil Engineering (2008)

Educational accomplishment:
Earning a bachelor’s of science with honors and graduating with a master’s of Science the following year.

Currently:
Senior Engineer at BuroHappold Engineering, San Francisco Bay Area

Personal or professional accomplishment:
Being able to see structural engineering work go from drawings to actual buildings. Working on several high-profile cultural, educational, and commercial buildings with world-renowned architects. Worked on design and construction of the New Doha International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Now working with architect Renzo Piano on the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum, on the structural engineering team.

What is your next professional goal?
“I’m working on my SE license.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“It’s very valuable to work on actual research, which is usually not possible for undergrads. I was very fortunate to work on a well-known, significant research project -- NEESwood. My project was to work on a design for connectors. It was exciting being present at a large-scale shake at NEES at Buffalo. I was part of the team that got to go into the building afterwards to look for cracks and document them.”

Vinnie Hung

Vinnie Hung

REU Cohort and Site: 2007, University of California, Davis

Education:

  • Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, BS in Civil Engineering (2008)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MS in civil and geotechnical engineering (2012)

Educational accomplishment:

  • Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Young Professional and Student Paper Competition 2012 Finalist
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff Award for Excellence in Career Development & Mentoring 2009
  • Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship 2007-2008
  • Cooper Union Full Tuition Scholarship 2004-2008

Currently:
Senior staff engineer at Jacobs Associates, San Francisco Bay Area.

Personal or professional accomplishment:
Licensed Civil Professional Engineer in the state of California, current term vice president of ASCE Younger Membership Forum, San Francisco chapter.

What is your next professional goal?
“I’m working toward managing fellow engineers as well as managing projects independently.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“During my REU summer I could see the endless possibilities within the geotechnical engineering field.”

Emma Lejeune

Emma Lejeune

REU Cohorts and Sites:2011 University of Nevada, Reno, 2012 University at Buffalo

Education: Cornell University, BS Civil Engineering (2013)

Educational accomplishments:

  • Awarded a 2014 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Won Cornell’s 2013 Merrill Presidential Scholars award

Currently:
MSc student at Stanford University, in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

What is your next professional goal?
To complete her PhD in structural engineering, with a focus on mechanics.

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“In 10 weeks, because the project is a small one, you can experience a whole research project, from start to finish - from literature review, to research basics, to the final product. It gives students a glimpse of the research process. And often, the REU project is part of something much bigger, so even when your project’s complete, you can still keep track of that.”

Why did you apply to the REU program 2 years in a row?
“Just because, after the first summer, I had such an excellent research experience - the REU helps prepare you for grad school and I knew I was going to graduate school -- so I was looking for more research experience. So I said, ‘Why not?’”

Dee Moronkeji

Dee Moronkeji

REU Cohort and Site: 2007, Oregon State University

Education:
BSc (Cum laude) and MSc degrees in Civil Engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology (Formerly University of Missouri-Rolla)

Educational accomplishment:
Active member in American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Tau Beta Pi.

Currently:
Senior Geoscientist focused on rock mechanics and geomechanics at Baker Hughes, Houston. Area of expertise includes formation evaluation, acoustic log processing, interpretation and Straddle Packer MicroFrac testing for stress measurement.

Personal or professional accomplishment:
Published papers:

  • Moronkeji, D.A., Cazeneuve, E.A., Franquet, J.A., Velo, D.E.: Anisotropic Stress profiling and Tectonic Strain Calibration in a Tight Basement Formation. Presented at the Rock Mechanics for Natural Resources and Infrastructure SBMR 2014 (CBMR/ABMS and ISRM)- ISRM Specialized Conference, Goiania, Brazil, 9-13 September 2014.
  • Moronkeji, D.A., Prasad, U., Franquet, J.A.: Size-effect on triaxial testing from sidewall cores typical for petroleum geomechanics use. Presented at the American Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA) 48th US Rock Mechanics/Geomechanics Symposium, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1-4 June 2014.
  • Franquet, J.A., Moronkeji, D.A.: Lateral Tectonic Strain Calibration from Wireline Straddle Packer MicroFrac Testing in Carbonate Reservoirs. Presented at the Society of Petrophysicist and Well Log Analysts (SPWLA) 13th Annual Angola Formation Evaluation Forum, Luanda, Angola, 16-17 April 2014.
  • Ihab, T., Naial, R., Moronkeji, D.A., Franquet, J.A., Smith, S.S.: Wireline Straddle Packer Microfrac Testing Enables Tectonic Lateral Strain Calibration in Carbonate Reservoirs. Presented at International Petroleum Technology Conference (IPTC), Doha, Qatar, 19-22 January 2014.
  • Ihab, T., Naial, R., Moronkeji, D.A., Franquet, J.A., Smith, S.S.: In-situ Tectonic Stress Calibration from Wireline Straddle Packer MicroFrac Testing: A Case Study in Carbonate Reservoirs. Technical poster presented at The Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC), Abu Dhabi, UAE, 10-13 November 2013. 

What is your next professional goal?
“I want to become a subject-matter expert in geomechanics, which I’m on track to do. In my current job I spend 70% of my time on projects and 30% of my time on research, which I love.”

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“The REU internship made me decide to go to graduate school. The research project had us find out how and why things work, which really opened my eyes to the world of research. I had job offers after my undergraduate degree. But instead I decided to hone my skills in research, and the graduate degree has really helped my career.

I would not be where I am today without the NEES REU experience. I absolutely love what I do now. And grad school helped me find my niche, what I like to do. I also must say that, during my REU experience at Oregon State, Dr. Julie Young provided a great academic background for me. She laid a foundation for writing papers and presenting them. It was the end of my fear of public speaking, something that now I do routinely in my work.”

Pablo Ramos

Pablo Ramos

REU Cohort and Site: 2010, University of Nevada, Reno

Education:

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, BS in Architectural Engineering (2011)
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, MS in Architecture with specialization in Architectural Engineering (2012)

Educational accomplishment:
Named Cal Poly 2010 Hearst Scholar, a CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement

Currently:
Design engineer at KPFF Consulting Engineers in the Los Angeles area.

Professional accomplishment:
Being part of a team that helped construct a state-of-the-art, 12-story hospital (UCSD Jacobs Medical Center) with oversight from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). The analysis for design was executed using a non-linear time history. This is the first time a non-linear time history analysis was ever utilized for the design of a hospital in California.

As part of the same effort to renovate the existing campus (Thornton Hospital) to accommodate the new 12 story bed tower, I was the lead engineer that designed a 26-million dollar renovation to the existing hospital and currently I am helping with the construction through construction administration.

Personal accomplishment:
Being a father to my 18-month-old son Josiah and my 6-year-old daughter Jazlene as well as a husband to my supportive wife Erika.

What is your next professional goal?

  • Immediate goal: To become a PE.
  • Long-term goal: To be a better, wiser engineer, and eventually become an SE.
  • Ultimate goal: To help build affordable housing for low-income families.

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“One of the requirements of the REU was to plan on going to grad school. At the time, I was a father already. You can imagine that I really wanted to enter the work force. So the REU experience helped me realize that graduate school wouldn’t take that much effort, and would be really valuable. A lot of firms use the MS degree as a threshold these days. The REU experience convinced me to pursue that second degree. If it were not for NEES, I would not have gone back for my master’s degree.”

Jodi Sangster

Jodi Sangster

REU Cohort and Site: 2008, Oregon State University

Education:

  • University of Nebraska, Omaha, BS in Civil Engineering (2009)
  • University of Nebraska Lincoln, MS in Environmental Engineering (2011)

Educational accomplishments:

  • National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP) 2011
  • Founding member, Engineers Without Borders – University of Nebraska student chapter (2009-present)

Currently:
University of Nebraska, Lincoln, PhD candidate in Civil Engineering. Will graduate in 2015.

Personal or professional accomplishments:
“Currently, I teach and work as part of a collaborative team evaluating the fate and bioavailability of agricultural steroids in aquatic systems. I have given oral presentations at national and international conferences on this topic.

I helped to develop a project-driven course module for undergraduate engineering students researching contaminant uptake in produce grown at a local community garden.

As time permits, I work with Engineers Without Borders - University of Nebraska student chapter. Our project is located in rural Madagascar and focuses on two main areas of sustainable development: providing a reliable source of potable water to the community and providing electricity to the schools. I have been able to spend two summers in our adopted community working on water quality issues, installing solar power in the primary schools, and training local people to construct and maintain the technologies implemented.

I have 6 peer-reviewed publications (with more on the way) covering the previously mentioned topics. Most of these include undergraduate students as authors.”

What is your next professional goal?
To graduate and find a “real” job.

What is the most valuable thing you discovered as an REU student researcher?
“The most valuable thing I discovered as an REU was that I can do anything I set my mind towards!

Before participating in the REU program, I hadn’t considered going to graduate school or doing research. I only had a tenuous understanding of these as concepts. I applied for the program because earthquake engineering sounded interesting. I knew absolutely nothing about it. As an REU, I had exposure to researchers and graduate students who elucidated the mysteries of graduate school and gave me a realistic appreciation of everything that goes into research. More importantly, I learned how to gain the knowledge I needed to be able to contribute to a project.

The REU program gave me a foundation for developing the confidence and skills needed to know that I can learn, understand, and accomplish anything I set my mind towards. I use these skills daily. Learn how to design and install solar power in a developing country? No problem. I can do that. Understand the finer points of a minnow’s endocrine system? I can do that too. Learn the finer points of analytical chemistry? Honestly, that still confuses me a bit, but you get the idea.”