Dordt College News

Bridging the gap between academia and practice: Dordt student part of award-winning civil engineering team

February 17, 2013

Danielle DeBoer, a senior civil engineering major at Dordt College, was part of an Iowa State University team that won the Transportation Research Board’s Soil Mechanics Section Best Paper Award this past January.

The goal of the paper was to address Iowa critics who were concerned about a new nationally mandated bridge pile design and assure them the new design was just as effective in Iowa soils and more cost-efficient.

DeBoer, from Omaha, Nebraska, had connections at Dordt that helped her play a part in this award-winning project, she said. Her civil engineering professor, Justin Vander Werff, was working on his Ph.D. at Iowa State University. His advisor, Professor Sri Sritharan, was looking for a summer intern to help him and a graduate student collect data for the paper they were working on titled “Verification of Recommended Load and Resistance Factor Design and Construction of Piles in Cohesive Soils.”

This relationship ultimately lead to DeBoer getting the summer intern job, where she helped compute how much money could be saved with the new piles, while still maintaining adequate bridge strength.

Her Dordt background and the experience with this project have both paid dividends for DeBoer.

“Dordt gave me a great foundation so that I had a basic understanding of what I was doing in the internship,” said DeBoer. “The opportunity was great because it helped me become more familiar with concrete work and confirmed that I wanted to do foundational work as a career. The internship also helped me understand my upper level Dordt classes better when I returned to school.”

With real-world experience in hand and soon to receive her college diploma, DeBoer is ready to take on the next stage of her life.

“I’m looking to apply to graduate schools with my ultimate goal of becoming a constructional engineer to build buildings,” said Deboer. “I’m really glad Professor Vander Werff saw what I was capable of and pushed me to do the internship. It had a big impact on me deciding this was the right field for me. This is where my passion is.”

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