Mark C. Reuss, E.I.T.
Senior Construction Engineer
Bechtel Group, Inc.
Engineering, Tufts University
Construction Management, Stanford University
"As a Senior
Construction Engineer, I am responsible for integrating
construction needs and knowledge into drawing, specifications,
equipment purchase orders, subcontracts, and project schedules."
students should be aware that math and science are essential for
engineering, but reading the newspaper and studying history,
English, foreign languages, etc. are equally as important.
Automation plays a major role in engineering projects so be sure
to take plenty of software courses. Studying abroad is one way
to investigate how interested you are in working
"To be an international participant or someone who works on projects in
different parts of the world takes a lot more skills than just designing
or working on construction in one location because all of the local
factors obviously are different wherever you are and wherever you go. The
laws that govern the construction industry, the relationship with the
local government, the site conditions, what type of soil there is, all of
these things have to be relearned and you have to have the opportunity to
be able to learn those things. You also have to be willing to learn a
foreign language if your going to be directly active in it. And to move
and live just about anywhere and have an open mind to understand that the
way you execute projects in one place can be very different from the way
you execute them in another."
"I definitely would recommend it if you can get work in your off periods
between semesters or years of school that relates to what you would like
to do; it can not only improve your education but help you decide exactly
what it is that you want to do after you graduate. Which is a tough
decision for everybody."
"Try to get diverse, try to learn lots of different things besides just
your engineering. Yes, you needed to learn the problem solving but try to
get broader and you'll find that your career is a lot more rewarding, at
least it has been for me."
"Graduate School is a stepping stone. If you want to take the next step
that you need to get to the next level, some business education, some
management education is definitely needed."
Q: How about the course
work and your course of study as an undergraduate? Was it rigorous? Did
you feel that you could choose specialties?
The course of study for an
undergrad or graduate engineer today is rigorous. At least at Tufts where
I went, you have to do more course work in the same amount of time as a
liberal arts major. So much so that we used to tease them and call them
the leisure arts majors. But yeah, it's, it's rigorous and depending on
just how well you want to do, you can spend as much time on it as you
like. This is one of the things that you learn when you go to college,
that you just can't do everything the way you could in high school. Once
you learn that lesson, it's pretty key to your survival. But at any rate,
it took about a year for me to figure that out. And about a year also to
decide on civil engineering. I wavered between chemical and mechanical and
ended up deciding on civil.
Q: And talk a little bit
about your year abroad or your study abroad. What drove you to do that?
When I started studying
engineering, I realized that because there are so many courses required
and four years to do it, those four years sound like a long time but
they're really not. I wanted to do more than just engineering, get to take
some of these other fun courses that everybody else was taking except for
us because we didn't have as many electives. So I thought the best way to
do that would be to get a double degree, get a B.A. and then select -- I
had a strong interest in German because of my background -- selected a
major that I really liked and then be able to take all those electives.
So, so that's what I did. It took some summer studies and it allowed me to
study abroad for a semester which was a good marriage between the two. I
studied in the southern part of Germany, nice old country town and a lot
of old theologians and farmers studied there, so it was neat, nice
Q: Were you involved with
any professional societies or ASCE or anything like that as an
undergraduate, or any kind of engineering societies at all?
I was very involved in the
ASCE as an undergraduate. I ended up in the board. I served as different
roles, secretary and vice president and ultimately president of the, of
the Society and really enjoyed the projects. In fact, when I was a senior
I started and initiated, over the objections of many, a playground
construction project in a town close to the university that had nothing
but an asphalt lot and was in a grade school. And we raised the money,
purchased all the equipment, did all the site work and installed all the
equipment in one weekend. And it was students from the school, it was
parents of students from that school that we were doing it for, this
grammar school, and even I had some friends come from out of town who
helped. It was a lot of fun. It was a great project. And I've done
actually four other playgrounds. It's something I just like to do on the
side 'cause it's really satisfying to do stuff with kids.
Q: How well do you think
that your undergraduate experience ... for life in the real world, both in
terms of -- both the technical matter that you were taught and also the
way that it was taught to you. Did you learn how to work in teams because
that's the way that real work happens or did you feel that it was mostly
you by yourself?
Engineering education today
has two major components to it. One, there's a lot of technical part that
you just simply have to learn. And it's not the most glamorous of things
but you absolutely need that foundation, you have to know how to calculate
roads, you have to understand mechanical systems, you have to know about
materials and go through all of that in order to provide the foundation.
The other part of it is that schools have begun to realize that a lot of
engineers in practice didn't have all the skills that they needed in terms
of communication skills, presentation skills, dealing with the public,
appreciating other factors because just the box of the calculations and
how many pounds are going to be on this beam. You need to know that but
also what are the environmental ramifications of galvanizing that piece of
steel and is there a way that might be more environmentally friendly? What
is the impact of trucking this beam through this town going to be? Do I
have to find another route? All of the peripheral issues really aren't on
the periphery any more, they are just as important and sometimes more
important than the basics, the essence of engineering design and
construction. So like I said, universities have realized this and they are
starting to emphasize these things more. And subjects that were not
previously required subjects like English and composition were electives
and they're even talking about going to a five year program because it's
difficult to do those two things in four years. It's really asking a lot
of a student. But if you do do that and you complete the studies of both
the technical side and the soft side or the peripherals, then you end up
with some skills that are very valuable to society. It's a good
combination to have.
Q: How about coops or
internships? Did you have any of those experiences while you were in
I worked summer times for a
company that provided a scholarship, partial, for my undergraduate
education. And I actually wasn't in civil engineering specifically, it was
in a manufacturing facility. And at that time, this country was still
building planes, military planes, and that's what I was doing. I started
in subassembly and then ended up doing some design and composite materials
and some failure analyzes, specific problem solving, primarily structural
engineering as it applies to aerospace. And did that every summer and
they'll pay for tuition and got some experience. And the assignment was
close to my home so that was -- it was a good thing to do. I definitely
would recommend it if you can get work in your off periods between
semesters or years of school that relates to what you would like to do, it
can not only improve your education but help you decide exactly what it is
that you want to do after you graduate. Which is a tough decision for