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ASU engineering student goes international


October 21, 2009

Arizona State University environmental engineering major Nathan Dunkin spent 13 weeks this past summer working in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

As an intern for Stanley Consultants, an international engineering, environmental and construction services company, Dunkin worked on an expansion project for the Abu Dhabi International Airport, helping design the water and electrical utility systems for a new terminal, and was a civil inspector and assistant to the project manager for a cooling plant for the city of Abu Dhabi.

In Doha, Qatar, he spent eight weeks working on a $1.5 billion water and wastewater treatment facility and pipe works project, serving as a civil inspector during installation of the wastewater mainlines – a process that involved tunneling a 9-foot-diameter pipe 12 stories underground across a distance of more than 20 miles.

The opportunity to work in the Middle East arose in 2008 when Dunkin was awarded a scholarship from Stanley Consultants.

Charles Silver, associate director of development and alumni relations for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, who works with scholarship donors such as Stanley Consultants, had helped connect Dunkin with company leaders.

Dunkin discovered he shared an interest in water resources and water quality with Dick Mettee, a senior vice president and national and regional project manager for the company. Eventually, Mettee helped arrange for Dunkin to work on the projects in the Middle East.

It was the first time the company sent an intern overseas. 

Dunkin is “worldly, hungry to learn and wants to make a positive impact in other’s lives,” Silver says. “He’s been a great representative for ASU engineering students.”

The internship experience “gave me a lot of insight into how engineering works in the real world, especially on the international side of things,” Dunkin says. In particular, it enabled him to work on much larger engineering-related projects than student interns typically do in the United States.

It also was “a great way to meet and interact with people in a very multicultural and cosmopolitan atmosphere,” he says. “For example, at one point I found myself playing a pickup basketball game with seven other people – a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Egyptian, a Korean, a Canadian, a Filipino and a Lebanese man.”

Besides interacting with people from various cultures, he traveled throughout the region, visiting Dubai many times and camping in the mountains of Oman.

The Middle East internship is just one of Dunkin’s international experiences. He spent the three previous summers coordinating community development work for an international non-government organization in Mexico and Nicaragua. Last fall, he completed work for a minor in Spanish while studying in Spain.

Closer to home, Dunkin worked on a research project with Morteza Abbaszadegan, a professor in ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, using DNA molecular techniques to monitor microbial contamination in source water for the city of Phoenix.

He currently is doing research in the National Science Foundation Water and Environmental Technology Center at ASU through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI).

His accomplishments have earned him several scholarships in the water quality field, including an Arizona Water Association Scholarship, an Arizona Water Reuse Scholarship, the Salt River Project Rod J. McMullin Water Resources Scholarship, an Arizona Hydrological Society Scholarship and the Stanley Consultants Foundation scholarship.

Dunkin, who is a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, plans to attend graduate school.

Writer: Chelsea Brown