Kristen Black­bird, a senior civil engi­neering major, com­pleted a co-​​op with Gilbane Building Com­pany, the gen­eral con­tractor for Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity. Photo by Mary Knox Mer­rill.

Senior civil engi­neering major Kristen Black­bird reflected upon the mag­ni­tude of her con­tri­bu­tion to Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity during the facility’s opening cer­e­mony in Sep­tember.

“I had this real­iza­tion that the work I did really meant some­thing impor­tant, that this building will be used for some incred­ible research and do great things for our uni­ver­sity,” she recalled.

The secure, state-​​of-​​the-​​art research facility — located on the university’s campus in Burlington, Mass., and funded by a $12 mil­lion invest­ment from alumnus George J. Kostas, E’43, H’07 — is crit­ical to advancing Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in secu­rity research.

For her part, Black­bird com­pleted a co-​​op with Gilbane Building Com­pany, the Kostas project’s gen­eral con­tractor. She worked at the site every day, inspecting mate­rials that arrived from sub­con­trac­tors, taking notes and photos of the building’s con­struc­tion progress and ensuring that par­tic­ular sec­tions of the building were installed cor­rectly.

Black­bird also worked with both the archi­tect and sub­con­trac­tors to answer ques­tions about the building’s design sketches, helped com­plete the building’s LEED cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­posals and pre­pared the project’s closeout doc­u­ment by com­piling thou­sand of draw­ings and inspec­tion forms.   

Black­bird said Northeastern’s co-​​op pro­gram played a huge role in her deci­sion to attend the uni­ver­sity. Her co-​​op with Gilbane — her third — had shoul­dered her with more respon­si­bility than ever before.

On a pre­vious co-​​op, Black­bird worked for the gen­eral con­tractor on a $55 mil­lion waste­water treat­ment plant ren­o­va­tion in Prov­i­dence, R.I. The experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­nity, she said, solid­i­fied her desire to pursue con­struc­tion man­age­ment as a career and led her to the co-​​op with Gilbane.

“It’s beau­tiful to see what’s on paper built right in front of you,” Black­bird said. “It’s like fin­ishing a puzzle and seeing the final product.”