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Scholarship boosts student's quest to become construction industry leader

Maureen Cassin construction engineering
September 04, 2013

Maureen Cassin earned undergraduate degrees in architectural engineering and civil engineering from a top school in those fields (the University of Missouri-Rolla – now the Missouri University of Science and Technology). She gained six years of experience in the construction business in Las Vegas and while there, she earned a master’s of business administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But Cassin says she realized that to fulfill her desire to become a leader in the construction world, she needed to be even better prepared for the future of an increasingly complex and fast-changing industry. So she looked at top university graduate programs in construction and engineering, and considered Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, Arizona State University and two prominent California universities. She chose ASU.

After meeting with faculty members and academic advisers, and touring campus facilities, Cassin says she “saw a lot of opportunity here” for working on the cutting edge of her field.

Cassin is on course to graduate in 2014 with a doctoral degree in civil, environmental and sustainable engineering, with a concentration in construction engineering, from the Del E. Web School of Construction Programs. The construction program is in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. 

Her performance in the program to date recently earned her support to complete her studies, a $5,000 scholarship from the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT).

Trenchless technology, a strong focus of Cassin’s work, involves both the methods and tools for an innovative approach to underground infrastructure design and construction that requires minimal excavation and disruption to surface ground. The specialty is expected to become a predominant method for constructing public utility systems such as water, sanitation, energy, electrical, fiber optic cable and transportation systems, as well as for oil and natural gas pipelines.

“This is the technology of the future,” Cassin says, “and the construction industry is going to need more people with the education to see the big picture, who understand how all the parts of more complex infrastructure systems connect and work together.” 

The rise of trenchless technology will also drive the industry’s need “for people who know sustainability,” she says. “All of this is what I’m studying to be.”

Fortunately, ASU is the place she can pursue her degree with professor Samuel Ariaratnam as her advisor. Ariaratnam is a leading figure in the trenchless technology field, a past board member of NASTT and the current chair of the International Society for Trenchless Technology. He also was named the 2012 Trenchless Technology Person of the Year by Trenchless Technology magazine.

Another resume-building advantage for Cassin is a five-week trip she took this summer to China to observe some of the country’s large-scale trenchless technology projects. She earned funding for the trip by winning a highly sought-after National Science Foundation Graduate Research Diversity Supplement Award.

While in China, Cassin observed three projects that are employing the horizontal directional drilling technique for installing major underground pipelines. She spoke with installation contractors and manufacturers of construction equipment, and worked with a research group at the China University of Geosciences-Wuhan. The city of Wuhan has the largest population of any urban area in central China and one of the country’s leading science and education centers.

“China is going through another major industrial revolution,” Cassin says, “and it’s interesting to see how they are building these massive infrastructure projects, and trying to do it so fast and still do it well.”

With such learning experiences to enhance her studies and research at ASU, Cassin says she’ll be armed with multifaceted skills. She also has discovered that she likes teaching at the university level. Having a doctoral degree will enable her to explore the option of working as an educator if she chooses, she says.

“I imagine that in today’s economic environment I may need to do at least two or three different kinds of things in my field to have a successful career over the years,” Cassin said.

She believes her education at ASU is equipping her to rise to that challenge.