Anthony Vecchi: The great outdoors
“I went to high school in Duluth where I was on the swim team, and I’m an avid cyclist,” said Anthony Vecchi, a 2015 CSE civil engineering graduate. “Being outside and active is very important to me.”
But how exactly to transfer that passion into a career choice was not immediately apparent to Vecchi when he first enrolled at the University of Minnesota as an undecided major. But then, things changed.
“I basically did a little soul searching about a career that would be fulfilling to me,” he recalls. “I thought about growing up beside Lake Superior and how beautiful and pristine it is. And I knew that it is that way because someone made it happen.”
Inspired, he looked over the University’s course catalog and came upon civil engineering, a path that seemed right for him. Still, he wanted to do a little research first.
“I was aggressive about it,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it would be a good fit.” So he emailed the president of the University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “I thought it would be best to get a student’s take on the department here at CSE,” he said. He was not only invited to attend the next meeting but to join the organization’s board of directors.
I basically did a little soul searching about a career that would be fulfilling to me."
“I was just expecting to be invited to a presentation but instead I become a freshman representative, and—before I knew it—a board officer,” marvels Vecchi, who subsequently went on to become the chapter’s board president.
Just after settling on a major, he spent the summer following his freshman year working with John Gulliver, a professor of civil engineering, on a research project on stormwater infiltration in manmade highway ditches, technically known as swales. During that time he also discovered—and fell in love with—the University’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.
“It’s pretty cool to be in an environment like that, surrounded by people who know more than you working on projects funded by NASA, the DOE, and the Army Corps of Engineers,” he enthuses. “The project I was working on is pretty humble compared to some of the work there, but it’s been great to go there every day in the summer and be around some really inspiring people.”
Vecchi, who’s received a Bonestroo, Rosene, Anderlik & Associate Scholarship among others, has continued working on the swale project over the past three years. As the scope and depth of the research he conducts has grown, so has his certainty that he made the right choice three years ago.
“When I started the project, I had no idea what a swale was or how to calculate anything or even why it was good for them to infiltrate water,” he said. “To go from that to where I am now is very rewarding and a validation that no matter where you start you can be amazed by where you end up.
“It’s been a real confidence booster.”