The College of Engineering

Persistence pays

Natalie Wilcox ’21 landed two engineering internships to gain career experience during the summer.

The URI Learning Experience

Applying theory in practice

While many students were scrambling to find summer work when internships were canceled or shortened last summer, Natalie Wilcox ’21 found herself at LaGuardia Airport at 3 a.m. surrounded by heavy machinery.

Wilcox, a civil engineering major from Malverne, New York, had lined up a 12-week internship with the civil and environmental engineering firm Langan in New York City.

“Given that New York was the epicenter of the pandemic last March and April, I was almost completely certain my internship would be canceled,” recalled Wilcox. “However, I kept in touch with the human resources representative throughout the process. It wasn’t until May when I found out my internship would take place, but it would be shortened to two weeks.”

Wilcox then contacted Haugland Group, a construction company on Long Island where she had interned the previous summer, and they invited her back.

Valuable Experiences

The geotechnical engineering internship at Langan consisted of intense training in AutoCAD, a computer-aided design and drafting software application, and in federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

In addition, Wilcox visited many active construction sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

“The most exciting thing I experienced was a massive excavation project at the American Museum of Natural History,” said Wilcox. “Everything I learned in my geotechnical engineering class came rushing back to me.”

On returning to Haughland Group Wilcox was assigned to a taxiway paving project at LaGuardia Airport and a construction job at the Walt Whitman Bridge, among other projects.

“I worked a 36-hour job over a weekend at LaGuardia,” said Wilcox. “There was a ton of planning that went into it. I sat in on the meetings that preceded the operation. I joined the team during the first overnight shift.”

The work at the Walt Whitman Bridge also took place in the evening.

“I enjoy being out in the field no matter what time of day it is, so I jumped at the chance to witness the installation of steel girders. I was able to watch steel construction take place for the first time.”

Expanded Career Options

The two internships provided Wilcox with great learning experiences and two career options.

“I’m conflicted on which aspect of civil engineering to pursue,” stated Wilcox. “Engineering design would let me exercise the technical knowledge I’ve learned in school and later allow me to draft my own projects. On the other hand, engineering construction has given me the ability to work alongside the people who plan and execute the actual building of the projects and witness the work unfold before my eyes.”

With her internships, whichever path she chooses is wide open to her.

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