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My Journey to NEU

April 8, 2015

About Me 

Udit Bhatia is a civil and environmental engineering PhD student. Prior to joining the PhD Program under supervision of Prof. Auroop Ganguly, he was working in the capacity of Assistant Design Engineer in MECON Ltd. (Government of India Enterprise). His research experience includes an internship from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (India) as an IRCC Research Internship award recipient, where he was part of the project, “Climate Change Impact Assessment on Water Resources of India”.

My Journey to NEU

It was a fine Sunday afternoon in the chilling winter of December 2012 in India. What could have been better than planning to spend the day outdoors with friends? Amidst all the ongoing planning, my cellphone bellowed, and I got an intuition of a spoiler alert as soon as I saw the name flashing on screen, "Manager Calling"! He informed that a major civil engineering design revision assignment had been received from one of the most prestigious clients, which had to be addressed immediately or there could be tremendous loss of life and property. Not to anybody’s surprise the client called for an emergency meeting. “Yeah, an engineer can be a lifesaver! It is a dream job!” I uttered comically. But, problem was more severe than my comic sense.

It was my first year in this engineering consultancy corporation in India after majoring in Civil Engineering, and I had no idea what this design was about. During the meeting, we came to learn about the gravity of the problem. It was noticed that the power-distribution unit of the ongoing construction of a 2.5 Million ton steel industry was on verge of collapse, since its foundations were getting tilted! It took me a while to even visualize the nature of problem, since during my undergraduate experience, I used to think that nothing in this world can be more difficult than the take-home assignments of structural engineering course.

After long sessions of brainstorming over next few days, we were able to discern the issue that a nearby earth retaining structure was getting displaced because of water seepage, which in turn, was triggering the undermining of nearby structures. The situation was further was further aggravated by the machinery operating in these buildings, vibrations of which were further loosening the earth. Although the immediate solution was implemented as soon as it was detected by fixing the temporary scaffoldings, arguments were still on regarding a long-term solution for the remaining design life the structure. Although, these concepts formed elementary concepts of various courses during my training as an engineer, the size of real-world problems are astonishingly larger with stringent timelines.

The next day, I walked to my manager’s office and requested that I want to be the part of the team working on the solution in the design office. Convinced by the enthusiasm, he agreed to my request. Now, the stage was set to broaden my thinking horizons and dive back into the basics to bring the concepts from multiple engineering disciplines, and propose the undisputed solution while working with engineers from different expertise, ranging from electrical engineering to mechanical engineering to civil engineering. While going through this entire exercise, I got a strong realization of how multiple disciplines are so inter-twined and knowledge of a single discipline will never answer these problems. Over the course of the next few months, we were able to fix the problem and come up with elegant revisions in design; my interest in these inter-disciplinary engineering challenges kept growing exponentially. I started hunting for one of the best tailored-to-need interdisciplinary programs across the globe in various universities.

While most of the programs in different schools were happy to offer domain-specific specializations, I did not lose hope to pursue what I was looking for. Finally, my long search proved to be successful when I secured the “husky” tag and joined interdisciplinary PhD program in Civil and Environmental Engineering at NEU. In my to-and–fro journey from academia to industry and back; I have found my true passion for engineering, which has been further nurtured by vibrant research experiences so far at Northeastern University.