In-House News: Problem Solved
In-House News: Problem Solved
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In-House News: Problem Solved
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Engineers are problem solvers. Part of the job of the problem solver is to get the right minds on the job. At Burns & McDonnell, sometimes that means reaching out to academic partners who can bring specialized capabilities to a project.

Engineers are problem solvers.

Part of the job of the problem solver is to get the right minds on the job. At Burns & McDonnell, sometimes that means reaching out to academic partners who can bring specialized capabilities to a project that's advancing the practice of environmental engineering.

Pilot Project Team

When Westar Energy began studying how to remove heavy metals from the waste stream at its Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near Topeka, Kan., Burns & McDonnell paired its scientists and engineers with the utility's, assembling a team focused on using the environment's best attributes to do the job naturally. As the project progressed, the complexity of the desired pilot design elements created an opportunity to involve researchers at Kansas State University (KSU), who through their own research had scientific knowledge unavailable in the consulting market.

"Collaborations like this enable us to help our clients with cutting-edge technology on certain types of projects — advancing the practice of environmental engineering," says Chris Snider, department manager for Burns & McDonnell. "An academic partner can bring specialized knowledge, and through project-specific research, help solve a challenging problem in the real world."

Beyond Labs

Such partnerships also get professors and their students — typically enrolled in master's or doctoral programs — out of the laboratory for a taste of what is to come after they earn their degrees.

"This was a great opportunity for us to work with industry and partner with a client to get out into the field and do work on a real site rather than just conduct research in a lab," says Stacy Hutchinson, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering at KSU.

The reult — a constructed wetland — is just the latest in the line of partnerships that have brought university faculty and students onto project teams at Burns & McDonnell.

Several unique landfill projects since 2003 have provided an opportunity for work with University of Missouri and University of Arkansas faculty on geotechnical challenges.

When Rick Coffman, now an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, was a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, he worked on several landfill projects. He has gone on to do more in his current role, involving his own students.

"Everyone gains from the experience. In addition to the insight I have gained from Burns & McDonnell personnel, I have also been able to pass on this insight and to use several of the projects as case histories in class," he says. "It is great to show graduate students how the knowledge they possess can affect the outcome of a project. It is also great for students to see the collegiality among the personnel at Burns & McDonnell and the type of work that is available after they graduate."

Professional Contacts

In fact, several University of Missouri students who worked on these projects have gone on to join Burns & McDonnell in the Geotechnical Group after graduation.

"Working with universities is always an opportunity to attract the top talent in technical fields," says Pete Burton, manager of that group. "We're able to provide them with exposure and understanding of real-world work, and we get to help our clients bring innovative projects to fruition."

For more information, contact Chris Snider, 816-822-3534.

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