Hazard Engineering: An Intern’s Perspective

During the past two months I had a fantastic internship experience in the hazard engineering services group, where I joined a highly skilled group of engineers and geographers. Everyone I worked with was not only knowledgeable in their field, but also cared deeply about their work and was happy to explain its operations to me. Specifically, my “buddy,” Nanda, not only introduced me to the basic functions of ArcMap (GIS software) during my first week, but continued to provide me with technical expertise on just about every project I worked on.

Over the course of my time here I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects including developing terrain topographic datasets using LiDAR data, a document on new levee analysis methods, and HEC-RAS hydraulic models to model flooding along rivers. I’ve been amazed by the range of tasks covered in just one department!

Although many engineering concepts remained constant throughout each task, the context and purpose of each project largely determined the approach we had to take. For many coastal flood studies I created the shoreline/baseline for coastal modeling based primarily on LiDAR data [fairly simple to compute]. However, in other areas, the LiDAR data was not appropriate for shoreline extraction so I had to manually digitize shoreline points based on aerial imagery photographs. I found the versatility in each approach very fascinating!

As an upcoming second-year systems engineering student at the University of Virginia, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work at Dewberry this past summer. Practices learned in the classroom are presented in such a way that they seem invariable and straightforward, but in the real world it quickly becomes apparent that re-modification of design technique is necessary to obtain accurate results.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from this internship is that versatility is the key to success. A good engineer should not only know when technical changes are necessary, but also how to execute each method. The way I see it, the best way to thrive as an engineer is to specialize in—changing your approach.

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