From Liberty Island to Alcatraz, Concrete is the Draw

Written by: Tracey Regan,
Members of NJIT's winning team at the 2017 Annual Student Beam Competition, sponsored by the the Eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware Chapter of the American Concrete Institute, which took a first in the "Highest Ultimate Load-to-Weight Ratio" contest

Lauren Rose is spending the summer working for High Concrete Group, a Pennsylvania-based company that makes precast components for structures ranging from bridges, to museums, to stadiums. Julie Mostafa is part of a student team on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay, repairing dilapidated sections of the iconic prison. David Williams is a sales manager for Ferrara Brothers, a construction materials giant in New York City.

The link: All three seniors are dual majors in NJIT’s Concrete Industry Management (CIM) and Architecture programs, concentrations that have them researching, rebuilding and continually rethinking the world’s most ubiquitous building material.

“This year, I’ve been able to be a part of very interesting projects, both structural and architectural, which gives me a lot of knowledge about very different kinds of structures. Among them, I've been helping out with the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island,” says Rose. “I’m very fortunate that I have the opportunity to work on the planning process and to see a monumental building come to life that millions of people will see in the future.

“There is something very intriguing about seeing a site or a building that isn't quite completed yet; you're able to get a glimpse of a structure that most people won't be able to see and that gives you a better understanding of how all of the pieces work together,” she notes.

Rose met High Concrete’s president at a meeting in late 2015 of the CIM program’s patrons, who provide NJIT students annually with scholarship and research dollars.

“After I gave a presentation about a concrete bookshelf I made, the president encouraged me to apply to the company,” she recounts. “That next summer, I got my start at High Concrete, working in quality control. During the school year I was able to stay employed, working remotely and occasionally at the plant. This summer, I’m working as a project management intern.” 

Since it was founded in the summer of 2006, the CIM program has grown from two enrollees to 100 today – many of them dual majors with civil engineering, in addition to chemistry and architecture.

“We’re a hands-on program and we encourage our students to work on-site at projects throughout the region and beyond. This way they hit the ground running when they land their first job. For many of our students, this happens well before graduation,” says the program’s director, Mohamed Mahgoub, an associate professor of engineering technology. “Along the way, they pack in exciting experiences, many of them at landmark projects.”

Students routinely intern with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and have taken part in high-profile projects such as LaGuardia Airport, the subway station at the World Trade Center and the Bayonne Bridge. Interns with S. Plainfield-based Silvi Concrete worked on the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike. Still others work with Eastern Concrete and Ferrara Bros., the main providers of concrete for the World Trade Center towers.

Mahgoub noted that industry patrons have pledged about $300,000 to support NJIT students during the upcoming academic year, approximately the same amount as last year. Every new student will receive a scholarship of up to $4000.

“But we don’t just work. Our students take part in lots of fun competitions,” he adds.

This past semester, for example, the NJIT student chapter of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) won the “highest ultimate load-to-weight ratio” contest at the annual Student Beam Competition organized by the ACI’s Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware chapter.

Mahgoub himself ended the year on a high note, winning the 2017 Robert W. Van Houten Award for Teaching Excellence by the NJIT Alumni Association. (He is pictured below with Anita Rubino '83, a member of the alumni board, and NJIT President Joel Bloom.)

"It’s a great pleasure working with these bright students and I’m thrilled to see the increased interest in CIM,” he says. “I see these students as future leaders of the concrete industry and expect them to make important advances."

Mohamed Mahgoub, winner of the Van Houten award for teaching from the NJIT Alumni Association