Yesterday, I went to a holiday banquet hosted by the Lehigh Valley American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at the ArtsQuest Center at the Bethlehem Steelstacks. It was a formal event organized by the vice president of the ASCE Lehigh Valley section, who designed the foundation for the arch shown above outside the ArtsQuest Center, and attended by some of the involved professionals in the local area, many of which were Lehigh graduates. As a part of ASCE here at Lehigh, I had the opportunity to go along with some other students for dinner and a presentation.
Professor Diplas, the chairman of the Lehigh CEE department, was there to give a brief introductory update on the current state of the department. This has been his first year at Lehigh after moving from Virginia Tech. He focused on how Lehigh is a small but growing school with a strong engineering program. I had the chance to talk to him personally before his presentation and he mentioned how the smaller atmosphere, Lehigh being about a fourth of the size of Virginia Tech, created a more close-knit civil community and department. I couldn’t agree more with him and everything he brought up in his presentation was a reason why I chose to come to Lehigh. Professor Diplas also noted that the Lehigh undergraduate civil engineering program was ranked 19th in the country and even higher for structural engineering, the highest national ranking of any of the undergraduate programs here.
The main presentation was given by James Durkin, a graduate of Lehigh who works as an executive project manager for Tishman Construction in NYC. Being the project executive for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, he explained the processes and complexities involved in building the new World Trade Center, specifically the “oculus” structure designed by Santiago Calatrava seen below. It was a fairly involved presentation with a lot of pictures and ideas that only engineers or architects could follow completely. He explained everything from the top-down construction of the foundation to the financial setbacks caused by Hurricane Sandy; it was truly one of the best presentations I’ve ever heard.