By Victoria Chilinski (CLAS ’16)
“I have no hesitation in saying the education and experiences I received at UConn prepared me well for my career in engineering.”
Alex Bernier is a UConn School of Engineering alumnus who earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering in 2010 and continued for a master’s degree in Transportation and Urban Engineering, which he received in 2012. One might call his post-graduate experiences an engineer’s dream life: he’s worked with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the British Home Office, and now has the title of Civil Designer at Stantec Inc.
“My undergraduate education gave me a strong background in the theory of civil engineering,” says Bernier. “The material can really challenge you like nothing before.” His favorite courses included soils and foundations courses, but he especially enjoyed the upper-level civil engineering courses that he got to take as an upperclassman, referring to them as “the highlights of my undergraduate experience.”
In graduate school, Bernier took the opportunity to conduct research in collaboration with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, mainly through the Connecticut Transportation Institute’s Connecticut Advanced Pavement Lab. “At the [Connecticut Advanced Pavement Lab], research is performed to improve the life and reduce the impacts of our roadway infrastructure,” says Bernier. “The work at the Connecticut Advanced Pavement laboratory is a great program where research and industry meet. Most citizens don’t know the expense, both financial and environmental, of pavements.”
In August of 2010, Bernier had what can only be described as a dream opportunity for a recent engineering graduate: he was chosen for a two-day workshop with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. During the workshop, which took place in Hoboken, NJ, Bernier and other participants assisted the DHS in predicting the research needs of detection technology, airport technology, and security threats of 2050. “It was quite an experience for everyone involved. I think the DHS learned how difficult it can be to work with some people from academia,” Bernier jokes, “but they did invite a group of us back for a second session in the UK in December of 2010.”
Bernier now works at Stantec Inc., a leading engineering, architecture, and environmental design firm. “Our team works with airports all across the Northeast,” Bernier says. “Our work ranges from pavement construction and rehabilitation to airfield electrical design to approach analysis for landing aircrafts. Day to day, I work with AutoCAD Civil 3D [a building and modeling software specifically for transportation design], meet with clients and research existing infrastructure and current design standards for airports.”
Despite all of his incredible opportunities and experiences outside of UConn, Bernier still looks back fondly at his days in Storrs. “UConn has amazing resources and opportunities for engineering students,” he says. “While being proficient with software may give you a little edge in a job search, it pales in comparison to the experiences you, a [UConn] student, can get while on-site…experiences like those that embellish the classroom experiences and help connect the dots between why and how.”