Discovering the creative side of engineering

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September 27, 2011
On co-op with an engineering firm in Paris, Northeastern University student Chris Nasif was asked by his manager to write a 10,000-word dissertation on designing earthquake-resistant buildings, a topic with which he was unfamiliar.

After shaking off the daunting scope of his assignment, the senior civil and environmental engineering major got to work.

He conducted research on past projects that had incorporated earthquake damage mitigation and analyzed creative ways to modify the structure — a 10-story, 60-square meter tower — to increase its stability. Ultimately, he devised a steel reinforcement system to incorporate into its design.

“It was incredible to design my own structure,” Nasif said of his co-op experience working at the firm Oger International. “I took away that the engineering process allows for great creativity and imagination.”

Past co-op experiences, he said, played an integral role in approaching his dissertation with confidence and attention to detail.

One time, he reviewed engineering blueprints for two major construction projects in Saudi Arabia. He pored over every inch of every floor, measuring surface area, counting columns and making sure the architectural drawings matched the structural schematics.

“I learned how the design process works and how the research is done,” Nasif said. “Examining all the technical aspects of those projects definitely helped me when I was designing my own structure.”

Working independently for the majority of his co-op inspired Nasif to discover solutions to engineering problems on his own. The experience also gave him an opportunity to compare how American and French engineers approach engineering quandaries.

“I couldn’t have picked a better co-op,” Nasif said. “ I learned about engineering from a different world perspective.”