Student Profile: Meaghan McGinn (CivE May 2015)
Meaghan McGinn studies civil engineering in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering. When she graduates in May, she will have a considerable amount of work experience.
Before returning to school, she had earned a degree in Environmental Science and was working at the USDA in St. Paul. “I was doing a lot of lab work there. The other lab managers could tell I wasn’t 100% satisfied; they encouraged me to go back to school and get an engineering degree. I want to be less lab-oriented and more client-oriented.”
Her engineering education is helping McGinn fill in the gaps she experienced. “The critical thinking background I’m learning in CEGE is new. With Environmental Science, there are many rules, and the training is to follow what the guidelines say. With engineering you have to think more critically. The program has opened me up to a lot of new ideas.”
Currently, McGinn is working at American Engineering Testing (AET). She has contributed to work on the Humphrey Terminal expansion at Minneapolis International Airport and the new Vikings Stadium. McGinn also writes reports based on information supplied by the supervising engineers.
“Our reports are usually one-page letter reports. We send analytical information along with a recommendation. The engineer will give me a short run-down, the general gist of what they want to say. Then I write it up, send it to back to the engineers, and they make any amendments.”
“Last summer (2014) I left AET to do a summer internship at the ASARCO copper mine in Arizona. I was supposed to shadow their water engineer. I got there on Monday, and they canned their engineer on Tuesday, so I kind of stepped into his duties. I wrote so many papers: agency communications, sample submittals, and required permit inspections. I wrote SWPP instructions that the mine workers follow. There was a lot on my plate, but it was fun. One of the things I started before I left was going through all of their records. It’s an old mine, started around 1900. They have a huge amount of records that I organized to meet compliance goals. I also worked with one of the engineers on a water database. I still work for them as a subcontractor.”
In addition to providing experience, her work in Arizona nurtured McGinn’s curiosity about cleaning up water pollution. “The mine had high levels of selenium in its waters. I presented a couple of our ideas to help negate that. I discovered I like water permitting and hydrologic remediation. I’m thinking about possibly going into the field in the future.”
Working while receiving an education keeps McGinn busy, but she feels it is worth the extra effort to earn another degree. “My work depends on when we have big projects. During the school year, work calms down, but then I have classes. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I am learning a lot.”
Through her work experience and internships, McGinn discovered that she is good at communicating with clients and would like to continue with client- oriented engineering in the future. “It can be hard to appease clients, so I think that’s why some engineers try to avoid consulting. Or if they do it, they do it for a short amount of time. I enjoy working with clients at AET, making sure that they like what we do for them and that we’re doing the best we can for them.”
McGinn believes the experience she gained through her internships and classes will provide her with footing for achieving her future goals. “This program has really filled in the gaps of my education as far as engineering. We were provided classes that explained how to approach problems. I’ve been pretty happy with my classes.”
Reflecting on what would be the most helpful for current students, McGinn was adamant about internship experiences. “Definitely get one. You get a lot of work and experience that way. You get to apply concepts that you learned in class in a professional setting. I really enjoy the experience my engineering internships have given me.”
After her education in CEGE, McGinn feels confident in her ability to analyze problems and come up with creative solutions, and much more confident that she is on her way to a satisfying career.