Student Profile: Justice Harvieux (CivE, May 2015)
CEGE: How did you choose to major in civil engineering?
I decided to be a civil engineer because it is a good combination of my interests and abilities. I’ve always been talented at math, science, and design. I used to draw a lot and paint and even did some sculpture. I was able to depict what I had in my mind. I knew that I wanted to work on big projects, to have an impact on the world. Civil engineering is a broad field, and gives me a lot of options. I began working with Professor Labuz in the Rock Mechanics Lab and that led me to an interest in geomechanics. The program has been a good fit for me. I am challenged and am able to use my abilities.
CEGE: How did you choose to come to UMN?
I am from New Richmond, Wisconsin, about an hour’s drive from campus. I wanted to go to a big school to challenge myself. I also considered the engineering programs at MIT, Northwestern, and Madison. Minnesota seemed to be the best fit. I got into the honors program, which has meant great opportunities in the form of exclusive, smaller honors courses. I feel challenged and that is what I was looking for.
CEGE: How did you get involved in ASCE and what has that involvement meant to you?
I just began attending ASCE meetings in the fall of 2014. They got me into a leadership role right away, too. I am the Student Resources Officer. My three main activities as the Student Resources Officer are helping Vice President Chelsey Palmateer organize the Career Fair, coordinating activities for our members, and conducting demonstrations of civil engineering activities for various groups. One of the activities I arranged for our group was a tour of the Bridges Apartments, a new building being built near campus. We were able to see the structure in progress and hear the process described. It was great to see in practice some of what we were learning in our classes. I have done demonstrations for all ages. For a group of first graders, we brought a make- your-own-earthquake table that the students jumped on to create a quake. We also did a quicksand demo that they really liked. Demonstrations for middle school students are similar, but I add more detail. I also do demonstrations at events like the Minnesota State Fair. I enjoy helping people understand technical concepts.
CEGE: Tell me about some of the classes, professors, or assignments that really delighted you.
I have really liked all my introductory classes and the professors who taught them. I worked with professors Barnes, Davis, French, Labuz, and Marshall. I was able to get through my introductory classes studying mostly on my own. Even if the answer was given, I would challenge myself to come to the answer and to understand it. As I get into some of the advanced classes there are fewer “go to” answers. We need to reason it out. For those problems, it is good to get input from others.
CEGE: How about some that challenged you?
Computer Applications in Civil Engineering was group intensive. We were given very challenging high-level problems and had to determine how we could develop a computer-based solution to the problem. In the beginning of the class, we talked about group dynamics and how to work efficiently in a group. That helped us work together.
CEGE: You have done research as an undergraduate. How did you get involved in that?
In one of my first classes, I was assigned to write a research proposal. So I wrote a proposal and sent it to a few professors. Professor Labuz had an opportunity for me to work in his lab right away, so I started working in the Rock Mechanics Lab the spring of my freshman year. Much of my work was supporting two graduate students who were working in the lab, Ali Tarokh and Roman Makhnenko (Roman has since earned his PhD and is doing post-doctoral research in Switzerland). I prepared rock samples, which involved making them the right size or shape needed for a particular test, or positioning sensors, for example, on the rock. I also helped prepare technical drawings related to the research. I developed good background knowledge about what is involved in testing rock. I also worked on my own independent UROP research (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program). My project built from the data the graduate students were collecting. I ran my own tests, analyzed the data, and presented my results at an undergraduate student symposium. It was a great experience. I worked independently, determined my own schedule, and tracked the progress of my research. I have arranged another UROP project for my senior year. That project will continue to build on Roman’s data. He was trying to measure the pore space bulk modulus of rock, which is difficult to do. We will be running a test that has rarely been done. We hope to write about our results if they turn out well, but either way I will learn a lot about research and measuring material properties.
CEGE: You also had an internship this summer. What did you work on?
I worked at MnDOT in the Concrete Office which is part of the Office of Materials and Road Research in Maplewood, Minnesota. I went on several site visits. It gave me a different perspective to see concrete paving being done rather than studying the components and chemical reactions in class. One of my tasks was compiling data for developing new standards and specifications for concrete. I researched and compared what other states have established. Variation arises due mostly to different climates leading to different needs and equipment and specifications. My biggest project was analyzing data to develop a specification related to alkali- silica reaction (ASR). The reaction occurs over time and can cause failure in concrete. Flyash can be used to mitigate ASR. MnDOT is researching how to revise current specifications about how to use flyash, how much, etc. I also had the opportunity to work in the field measuring thickness of concrete using a Magnetic Imaging Tomography (MIT) device, which is a metal detector of sorts. The crew laying concrete will place a metal plate under the concrete and then thickness can be measured. This method would allow tests to be done on poured concrete while reducing the number of cores taken from the concrete. My task was to analyze the gathered data for accuracy. The data may later be used to develop specifications for metal detector test protocols.
CEGE: How do you balance the challenging workload, your duties with ASCE, and all the other activities that you are involved in?
School and studies have come pretty naturally to me—although I do put my time in. I think you need to be efficient; that is also an important part of engineering. As engineering students, we are often solving problems for various efficiencies. I have priorities and values and set aside time to accomplish what I want to do.
CEGE: Who have been your mentors?
No one in m y family was an engineer. My father was in realty, but was very handy and came up with a lot of creative solutions. He influenced me in that way. Professor Labuz challenges me. I like being pushed to do more or better. Roman and Ali, the graduate students in the Rock Mechanics Lab, have also been good mentors. They taught me a lot about technical things (tests, programs, models, etc.). Working with them has broadened my interest in rock mechanics.
CEGE: Tell us about your upcoming study abroad trip.
Studying abroad is something I’ve wanted to do, but it was difficult to schedule with classes and work. This trip is over winter break (Jan 2015); it helped that it was not a full semester. We will go with CSE Associate Dean Paul Strykowski. We will be traveling to Tanzania to build a clean drinking water system in a village there. I am looking forward to that opportunity to apply my skills and what I have been learning to make a difference for those people. I also hope to broaden my understanding about how engineering is done in other countries.
CEGE: What are your aspirations after you graduate?
I am looking forward to seeing my work come to life. I’ve always wanted to have a purpose and to help people out. It is important to me to use my interests and abilities—math, science, and design—to develop solutions that other people may not be able to see or accomplish. I am thinking about going to graduate school to get my master’s degree. After that I’d like to work in industry. I might like to be involved in research and development on the industry side. I think the research efforts might be more applied in an industry setting compared to what happens in academic settings, where the positive impact for people may require a longer timeframe. I want to continue to be challenged and to learn every day.