April 23, 2019 | 71° F

Rutgers alumni discusses passion for engineering

A class of 2000 alumni, Andres Roda exercises his passion for civil engineering at Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation, a company that aims to nationally improve infrastructure and transportation.

CAIT is the largest engineering research center at Rutgers. They have received over 17 million external grants and they train over 7,500 professionals each year. According to CAIT's official website, the center is one of five National University Transportation Centers because it is a research institution sanctioned and supported by the United States Department of Transportation.

As a senior research manager at CAIT, Roda supervises research plans and develops technical training plans to help push research forward. His job requires him to be innovative when dealing with the construction of bridges and also requires him to deal with many different kinds of people.

“There’s a lot of collaboration and communication so I continuously reach out to the state department of transportation staff,” Roda said. "(The conversations involve) various topics in bridge research talking about what possible improvements we could make to improve bridge construction and bridge maintenance, working on topics that are related to the field of infrastructure and in particular bridge engineering.” 

He said he is particularly excited about the The Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing Lab. The building took over three years to design and build, and stands at more than 120 feet long and 30 feet tall.

“(BEAST) is the first of its kind," Roda said. "We can build full scale bridges and we could put them in this facility and test them, basically aging them so we could understand how these bridges, similar to those in use across the country, fall apart."

Roda said he is intrigued by the amount of possibilities the BEAST unveils.

“The BEAST subjects full-scale bridge decks and superstructures to extreme traffic loading and rapid-cycling environmental changes around the clock, ‘compressing time’ to induce and speed up the deterioration process,"  Amanda Wilson, director of the National Transportation Library said.

“It's an exciting prospect. We could take the innovations (from the BEAST) and apply them to bridges worldwide," Roda said.

The BEAST cost a total of $6 million. Half of the funding came from Rutgers and the other half was funded through federal government. 

The facility will decrease costs in the long term, argue lawmakers.

“Having this kind of tool will help us understand how to best allocate our, admittedly scarce, dollars is one of the most important things we can do. Not only for the long term safety of our transportation infrastructure, but when we are convincing our constituents and our colleagues on the need for the investment," Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski said.

Projects like the BEAST are what drew Roda to civil engineering. He said his family also played a role in his building his interest.

“My grandfather was a surveyor and I chatted with him a lot about that, and my father talked about civil engineering and the need for engineers in general,” Roda said. “I moved up to the New Jersey in 1988. I looked at Rutgers and said 'Well, I’d like to go visit, and it just felt right to come here.'”

He said he appreciates the "edge" Rutgers gave him, as well as the opportunity to work closely with the faculty. He credits his current position at CAIT to the benefits of networking at Rutgers.

“I got in contact with the associate director (of CAIT) and he basically reminded me that he’d be happy for me to come and join. Just a good conversation with him and his colleagues," he said.

All in all, Roda feels he has built a home by studying and then working at Rutgers.

“It felt great to be back at Rutgers University and work at the center. I’m basically at a spot where I’m right behind the student center," Roda said. "I’m (walking) as I come to work on the same sidewalk where I walked as an Undergrad."

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