My internship at the U.S Army Corps of Engineers

Author: Isabel Green
Original Article: FIU News
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Name: Yairen Sotolongo-Gabeiras

Hometown: Morón, Ciego de Avilas, Cuba

Degree/major: Civil Engineering, Honors College

Where are you interning? What are you doing there? I am interning at the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi as a summer Research Intern.

How did you get your internship? This is actually my second summer interning here. Last summer, I saw a flyer in the Engineering Center’s information board, and I picked up the phone and called to get more information about the internship. I sent my resume and went through the interview process. After the completion of my internship last summer, I was asked if I wanted to return again this summer and I did!

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? My advice is to simply be open minded to new things and projects that you might not have seen in your entire life. I got to work on engineering topics I didn’t know were possible and keeping a positive “I can do this” attitude went a long way in my success.

What projects are you working on? This summer I have been working on the process of using numerical methods to analyze how the hydraulics of three rivers: The Rio Grande in New Mexico and the Red River and Mississippi River in New Orleans. I have created the geometry, mesh and boundary conditions while learning how to use hydraulic modeling software and code such as Surface Water Modeling System (SMS) and Adaptive Hydraulic Modeling (AdH). I have also had the opportunity to be mentored/taught by the best hydraulic and sediment engineers for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers on topics such as open channel hydraulics and sediment transport.

The Rio Grande river model’s goal is to assess how the velocities of the river’s flow affect the reproduction of the silvery minnow fish. The silvery minnow is an important fish species to the Rio Grande River’s ecosystem because it is an indicator species. As for the Red River/Mississippi River project, the model is aimed to assess the capacity of the levees surrounding the flood plain that is near the Old River Control Structures during the conditions that occurred in the 2011 flood event.

How does your internship connect back to your Honors College coursework? I took Programming the World last Fall 2016-Spring 2017 and the Java Programming language knowledge I acquired throughout the course was very helpful and transferrable when dealing with the AdH coding language. It has been very helpful.

What is the coolest thing about your internship or that happened during your internship? The coolest thing about my internship has been being mentored by so many incredibly knowledgeable professionals in the field of civil engineering. Every single time I have a question about any topic, I have access to someone who is an expert in the field just a few steps away. I also got to visit the Old River Control Structures and see with my own eyes, the project I am working on which was really satisfying.

What do you like most about your experience? My favorite part of my experience has been the mentorship I have received. I truly believe that there is nowhere in the world better than ERDC for an entry level engineer to begin their career in the water resources field.

What have you learned about yourself? After interning ERDC for the second time this summer, I learned that I thrive better in a creative environment. Working in the research side of engineering has allowed me to explore my creativity. Every single project I have worked on here hasn’t been like solving problems from a book with a solutions manual. Instead, it has taken me through a trial and error process and it has allowed me to create something new which I learned is far more satisfying to me than following somebody else’s steps, if that makes sense.

How has the position increase your professional confidence? I feel more confident because I have been able to successfully work amongst renowned engineers. Also, through this internship I was able to apply the knowledge I gained as an engineering technician for a local costal engineering firm in Miami.

How have you expanded your professional network? I have significantly expanded my professional network by asking questions and attending different presentations across ERDC.

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