Summer Intern Series: Paola Lopez, Civil Engineer

Photo Courtesy of Paola Lopez

Paola Lopez is a senior civil engineering major who interned at Tappan Zee Constructors this summer. For 11 weeks she assisted a group of contractors working on the new New York Bridge. She was able to get first hand experience in her field and participate in creating a historical structure. Now that she’s made her mark, physically, in New York, she is starting her last year at Manhattan excited to see what the future brings.

Madeleine: What’s your major and hometown?

Paola: I’m majoring in civil engineering and my hometown is San Francisco, California.

M: Where did you intern this summer? For how long?

P: I interned for about 11 weeks with Tappan Zee Constructors. This is the group of contractors working on building the New NY Bridge.

Photo courtesy of Paola Lopez

M: How did you find it/get the job?

P:  I landed an interview with Granite Construction through the Career Fair here at Manhattan last fall semester. During the interview process, I was asked which area I would like to work at and I chose New York. This led to the decision of assigning me to the Tappan Zee Bridge Project.

M: What did you do for this company?

P: I was a team member of the approaches team for the project. I assisted the temporary works design engineer with numerous small projects. These included drafting some sketches of parts of the bridge on AutoCad, a lot of calculations, and excel spreadsheets. I also learned how to use different engineering programs to check the stability of the structures being designed such as, cofferdams, drilled shafts and temporary bent caps.

Photo courtesy Paola Lopez

M: Did you like it? What was the best/worst part?

P: I loved my internship. It was one of the best experiences ever. I was able to learn so much from my supervisor about the ins and outs of being a designer. I was also able to interact with construction engineers, project managers and surveyors and learn about their jobs.

I thought that the best part of this job was having so many friendly and intelligent people from different companies come together as one giant company to work on this historical project. Also knowing that if I ever had questions or wanted to learn more about certain parts of the project, there was always someone around to answer my questions or give me insight about the job.

Another amazing part of this internship was getting onto a tugboat and visiting the piers that were being built. I was able to see the large steel girders that had just been erected these past couple months! There wasn’t really a worst part about the job. Waking up at 5 a.m. or sometimes 4 a.m. was a bit difficult but it was definitely worth it.

M: Suggestions for underclassmen thinking about interning?

P: I waited until my junior year to intern because of summer classes that I decided to take, but if you have the opportunity to intern somewhere before then definitely do it. It’s really important to know if the major you’re studying for is what you really want to do when you graduate. The only way to know for sure is if you get first hand experience, the sooner the better. Also, career development is the best resource for you, along with your professors. Don’t be afraid to go to your professors or career advisor and ask them for advice or to check your resume. Lastly, don’t miss the career fair and prepare well for it.