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Learning from loss
Engineering major assists with World Trade Center site reconstruction  

Sep 11, 2008  
By Colleen Carow and Melissa Gerber  

There is much to be learned from the site where the twin towers were destroyed seven years ago today.

When senior civil engineering major Patrick Miner first set foot on the site in January, his reverence was equaled only by his desire to play a role in the area's reconstruction. He was able to do that as part of a cooperative education assignment with Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger, a Boston-based structural and building engineering firm. 

SGH's role at the World Trade Center site is to reinforce a slurry wall 70 feet below where the twin towers stood. The wall is used to lay foundations in sites with soft earth or groundwater flow.

In addition to its work at the World Trade Center site, SGH's Manhattan office investigates building problems and collapses, designs new structures and rehabilitates existing buildings in and around New York City.

"Since the attacks, I have been fascinated with the engineering and societal aspects of the World Trade Center site," Miner said. "I began reading articles that explained why the buildings collapsed, so I knew a lot about the situation before I even went to the site. But I never dreamed I would have a chance to work there."

One of Miner's most memorable projects was working on a large retaining wall for the September 11 Memorial. The wall is supported by caissons -- steel that is bolted and welded together, then encased in concrete -- drilled into bedrock. During the summer, the welds on a caisson failed as a crane lifted the steel assemblies, and Miner was asked to go to the site and investigate.

The assignment required Miner to inspect the assemblies, take photographs and interview experts. He worked on the project until he returned to Ohio University this fall.

During his time with SGH, working on buildings dating from the 1880s to today gave Miner a unique understanding of building construction.

"I've learned a vast amount of technical engineering techniques, as well as what it's like to work in a professional environment, how a company works and what I do and don't like to do," he said.

The co-op opportunity came to Miner just one month before the start date. Eager to work in New York City, Miner, originally of Pittsburgh, Pa., enlisted the help of Robbyn Turner Matthews, Russ College coordinator for career programs, to develop a list of contacts and file applications.

"It was a long quarter of sending out my résumé, waiting and following up," Miner noted. "I was afraid that I wasn't going to have something lined up in time."

SGH provided Miner with an hourly wage, a monthly stipend to help with the high cost of living, and a small relocation package. Relocating, it turns out, was challenging. He stayed in a loft rented by a few Columbia University students until he landed in an apartment in Hoboken, N.J. He said the relaxed atmosphere and social nightlife there reminded him of Athens, and he often played drums in an open jam session in a blues bar below his apartment.

Matthews said that in addition to personal growth, Miner gained the relevant career experience that is crucial for students once they begin their full-time job search. In fact, when Miner graduates in June, he will have 15 months of real-world work experience under his hardhat.

"Patrick's co-op at SGH provided him with stories and situations he can discuss during interviews," Matthews said. "His technical expertise and professional demeanor are what engineering firms seek in new graduates."

Coming soon: Watch for a series of stories about Ohio University students' amazing summer internships.


George Mauzy contributed to this story. 

Updated Oct. 28, 2008, to include Miner's hometown.
Updated for grammar Sept. 15, 2008.
Updated Sept. 12, 2008, to clarify Miner's role in the project.


Related Links
College of Engineering and Technology: http://www.ohio.edu/engineering/ 

Published: Sep 11, 2008 1:58 PM  

 Patrick Miner on-site at Ground Zero.

One of the memorable aspects of Patrick Miner's role at Ground Zero was working on this retaining wall for the site's memorial.  


Photos courtesy of Patrick Miner  

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