“Of course, NJIT will always have a special place in my heart as the institution that provided the foundation that continues to inspire me today,” noted James Stamatis ’85, chief executive officer of Louis Berger, a full-service engineering, architecture, planning, environmental, program and construction management and economic development firm based in Morristown, N.J. The company, he pointed out, “has had a long and successful partnership with NJIT, dating from my years as a student [there] to the present, with the university the source of many of our finest employees.”
This relationship, he added, “has been a model partnership between private industry and a leading institution of higher learning.”
Indeed, Louis Berger has become a valued Recruitment Partner through NJIT’s Career Development Services. The company employs upward of 20 alumni including Stamatis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Recent student-to-staffer conversions include Hardik Patel ’16 ’17, an environmental engineer, and Takudzwa Mugabe ’18, a structural engineer.
Many NJIT students, like Patel and Mugabe, have found their way to Louis Berger through its Graduate Internship and Fellowship Program, launched in 2014 as a cooperative endeavor by NJIT and the Louis Berger Group. The program, which focuses on environmental services, transit, highways and bridges, aviation and energy, as well as economics, policy and management activities, “provides financial support to two NJIT engineering or architecture students annually, in addition to a full-time summer internship at one of the company’s U.S. or international offices,” explained Stamatis.
This past year, master’s students Catherine Brito ’19, studying architecture and infrastructure planning, and Abhishek Banyal ’19, pursuing civil engineering with a construction management track, were named 2018 Louis Berger Fellows. And just as their predecessors have done, they spent a summer immersed in real-world experiences, honing their know-how in their respective fields.
Natural-Disaster Management in N.J. and Military Master Planning in D.C.
By the time Catherine Brito became a Louis Berger Fellow, she already had three years of professional architectural work under her belt at Kevin Hom Architects and Dasilva E4H Architects. The 2015 technology in architecture graduate of the New York City College of Technology, who hails from the Dominican Republic, was broadening her expertise as a graduate student at NJIT when she received an email from the university during her first year inviting her to apply for a Louis Berger Fellowship.
“What interested me the most about Louis Berger was the involvement of the company in various professional practices, especially its practice in the fields of architecture, planning and environmental design,” Brito said. “Another thing that I found fascinating was that the company is worldwide, and that this internship was going to enable me to travel. I felt I was going to obtain a great experience from them.”
That experience called for her to split her time: two months in Morristown followed by a little over one month at the company’s Washington, D.C. office. In Morristown, Brito was one of four interns on one of two teams competing in Louis Berger’s Global Innovation Challenge. The challenge centered on natural-disaster management and tasked the teams with proposing resilient, implementable solutions to a real-life calamity. Brito’s group focused on Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“We decided to look at what happened and see what type of infrastructure was most affected, and how that infrastructure impacts the lives of the people [as well as recovery],” offered Brito, whose team recommended and wrote a business plan for a solar micro grid to supply localized energy in each community, so that “when a storm happens and some of the power lines go down … the community can still have power.”
Her move to the nation’s capital, which marked her first time there, had her working on various military master-planning projects as part of the architecture/planning department. There she had the opportunity to learn from experts in the planning field, collaborate with different teams and develop new skills. She looks to use her newfound knowledge to help develop more sustainable and healthier communities through planning and architecture design.
“I was very happy with the experience. I was very happy with the professionals I worked with,” said Brito. “One thing I really liked about the company was that they encouraged you to take on responsibility ... which makes you learn, but also I think gives you more confidence. If somebody trusts you with this urgent task, it empowers you to do better.”
Mass Transit in India
As a Louis Berger Fellow, Abhishek Banyal was assigned to an underground mass-transit project in Mumbai, India — what he describes as somewhat similar to New York City’s subway system. Smack in the middle of its execution phase, the project involves building a number of lines along with tunnels and stations. Banyal reported to the project coordinator and the senior resident engineer for the longest line, running nearly 34 kilometers from the northernmost to the southernmost points of the city.
“Mumbai desperately needs something like a metro system, because apart from the roads, the only practical mode of transportation you can have is the regular local trains,” explained Banyal, who grew up in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. “I had to take those, and if you read about the trains in Mumbai or came across pictures or videos on the internet … it’s not a [pleasant] experience. It’s beyond packed. The trains run on time, but the population density in Mumbai is [off the charts].”
The Maharashtra government, which is the primary funder of the project, hired Louis Berger as part of a program-management consortium for the mammoth undertaking that looks to ease the congestion. Also involved are contractors from many countries.
Banyal accompanied civil engineering inspection teams into the field, and was exposed to massive excavation and tunnel-boring operations underneath densely populated urban environments. He also assisted in documenting the project’s progress: “There’s a lot of information I was given — method statements, designs, drawings, daily progress reports.”
With a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from SRM University in Chennai in India, and two years as a public works site engineer for a government contracting operation in his home state, Banyal came to NJIT in large measure because of the Louis Berger fellowship opportunity. His summer experience with the company allowed him to build on his studies in construction estimating, environmental impact, shared public mobility and computer-based scheduling.
“You can only learn so much from books. When you’re working on a project, things are usually very, very specific. There’s no generalization for a lot of things. Every project is unique. Every site is unique. The only way to learn is to be in the field and see what’s going on,” remarked Banyal, who would like to obtain an engineering license and professional employment in the U.S. after graduating. “The matter of great privilege for me to be part of such a large and prestigious project is only overshadowed by the amount of insight I have gained into projects of such a scale and stature.”
To learn more about Catherine Brito’s and Abhishek Banyal’s exciting experiences, and to find out how to apply to the 2019 Louis Berger Graduate Internship and Fellowship Program, attend the upcoming presentation Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, 4:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m., CKB Room 303. Representatives of Louis Berger will be available to answer questions. Light refreshments will be served. Students can register through their Handshake account for the presentation.