Research opportunities - A strategic advantage for Lyles School grad students
The Burke Graduate Program nurtures future professionals in civil engineering
Jessica Eisma, Lyles School of Civil Engineering PhD candidate, conducted research in Tanzania on sand dams.
With world-renowned research faculty and some of the most technically advanced laboratories and tools available, the Lyles School of Civil Engineering is one of the world's premier destinations for a graduate degree.
These strengths provide students in the Christopher B. and Susan S. Burke Graduate Program in Civil Engineering with incredible research opportunities — and that is what sets the school apart, officials say. It is not surprising that Purdue's graduate program was ranked No. 6 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2019.
Dulcy Abraham, professor of civil engineering and chair of the Christopher B. and Susan S. Burke Graduate Program, says a key to the school's long-standing success in educating and preparing some of the world's top civil engineering graduate students is through providing a multitude of research and networking opportunities.
"We don't simply want our graduate students to be strong academically," Abraham says. "We want them to be leaders and strong collaborators, so that they can push civil engineering forward and guide the next generation."
Amit Varma, the James H. and Karl H. Kettelhut Professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory of Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research, echoes Abraham's thoughts. He adds that high-level research experience is a key reason why civil engineers with an advanced degree from Purdue are snapped up by industry and government recruiters.
Recently, Lyles School graduate students presented a paper at the North American Steel Structures Conference — an invitation-only event where guests and speakers are all considered to be at the forefront of innovative research.
Civil Engineering graduate student Nathan Shellhamer attended several conferences and lectures while working toward his master's degree, which he earned this past May.
"Attendees at this conference include the top civil engineering minds in the world, so it is not typical for graduate students to earn an invitation," Varma says. "This indicates that our students are very, very good. They are consistently recognized for their work and creative thinking."
Among them is Jessica Eisma, a PhD candidate focused on solving water-related problems. Eisma, who won the Fullbright U.S. Student Program grant for 2016-17, says she continues to be amazed by her research experiences, including many that go far beyond the lab.
"Purdue has provided me with innumerable opportunities that have enriched my education and enhanced my career prospects," Eisma says. "Not only have I been able to travel and learn from some of the leading researchers in the world, but top researchers regularly come to Purdue to share their experiences with us."
Among her endeavors, Eisma spent a year studying small-scale, water-harvesting structures in Tanzania, attended the Third International Conference on Global Food Security in Cape Town, South Africa, and met with Essam Sharaf (BSCE '75, MSCE '80, PhD '84), Purdue Civil Engineering alumnus and former prime minister of Egypt.