by William Schmitt
Hastak discusses CEM’s extensive, cutting-edge role in all aspects of infrastructure, pointing out how the definition of that familiar term has broadened. CEM’s unique approach to the combination of research and teaching includes special engagement among alumni and other knowledgeable practitioners, industry, and peer academic institutions, as well as graduate and undergraduate students.
The CEM head explains how this approach enables world-class faculty to serve the construction industry through visionary and time-tested experience. The contributions cover the entire lifespan of a typical construction project, with attention to quality, safety, cost, schedule and sustainability, Hastak says. That lifespan comprises planning, design, physical construction, and maintenance.
Faculty members are internationally recognized in specialized areas, such as facilities engineering, virtual reality, augmented reality, cyberspace applications, construction safety, disaster risk reduction, geographic Information Systems (GIS), building information modeling (BIM), heavy construction, underground infrastructure, and construction company profitability.
According to ASCE estimates, the U.S. needs to invest $4.5 trillion by 2025 to maintain its existing civil infrastructure. This civil infrastructure is the concept most familiar to the general public, largely referring to municipal supplies of water and electricity, as well as bridges, dams, tunnels and much more. Hastak also names social, educational, environmental, financial and cyber/communication as types of civic infrastructure.
Purdue’s CEM is perhaps the only program in the country whose curriculum includes three internships for every undergraduate. Every summer, about 120 students fan out to dozens of companies, in the U.S. and overseas, to receive hands-on learning as paid interns. Over time, CEM has built relationships with some 180 construction companies. The experiential component of learning is a distinguishing feature of Purdue’s program. Alumni play a crucial role as mentors for internships.
CEM pays particular attention to successful career preparation for women and underrepresented minority group members among undergraduates. Hastak is proud that CEM alumni established the Women in Construction (WinC) mentoring program to support female students. Interns can tap into the insights and assistance of the WinC network. Currently, women constitute about 25 percent of every CEM graduating class.
Hastak graduated from Purdue with his PhD in 1994. He worked in industry for a time before joining academia, and he returned to Purdue in 2001. In 2019, this renowned author and industry influencer received the honor of being named Dernlan Family Head of Construction Engineering and Management.
All CEM stakeholders are involved in a major strategic planning process to map the division’s next five years to remain “the best of the best” in construction engineering and management education, Hastak says. CEM celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016-2017.
All five Purdue Engineering Initiatives (PEIs), underway as incubators for advanced planning of College of Engineering priorities and programs, have connections to CEM, Hastak notes. The division is addressing opportunities to bring data analytics and digital capabilities more fully into the construction field. Most CEM research is conducted by interdisciplinary teams.
Hastak foresees a surge in the number of qualified construction engineers needed to implement the anticipated investment in infrastructure repair and expansion.CEM is expanding its expertise in the virtual-physical space. Also, it is developing a professional master’s program, combining on-site and online learning, to offer customizable graduate-level programs that update skills in various areas of specialization.
CEM will also be the home for a Purdue center of excellence to optimize collaboration between experts in industry and academia to focus on addressing major challenges. The center is called Engineering, Procurement, Construction, Operations, and Maintenance(EPCOM).