Monday, August 20th, 2018


A Day in the Life of an Intern

by Mike Murphy and Damian Andreani

What does an intern in the field of structural engineering do on a daily basis? At catena, the senior engineers expect everything out of us as they would an entry-level engineer. With the experience we had from our design classes at SUNY at Buffalo, we were tasked with utilizing the steel, wood, and concrete building codes to design portions of the structures that catena is currently working on. However, some of the design practices that are common in structural engineering are not taught in design courses, i.e. load path through a multi-material connection. We were encouraged to read through textbooks and codes to learn the steps to design the components we were not familiar with. Although we were expected to read and learn on our own, we were also expected to have questions for the other engineers, sometimes even stumping them with our questions!

Some of the topics were never addressed in school. On a daily basis, we became familiar with finding specs on proprietary products, such as Simpson and Unistrut. We also learned to use some design software such as RISA 3D, Hilti Profis or Tekla Tedds, which would not usually be seen in a school setting.

The diversity of the projects we were assigned to is also what makes working at Catena fun and challenging. Some projects involved topics from our statics class from sophomore year while others involved challenging concepts from graduate classes in structural engineering – some of which we have no experience in yet.

Being an engineer is not only about crunching numbers. At catena, we learned about the other aspects of a structural engineer’s job. A lot of times, crunching the numbers is the easy part of the design – figuring out how a design will look is the more difficult part. We had discussions and coordinated with clients and contractors in order to give valuable input on design decisions. Another side of the job we did not see in school is the business side. Knowing that project deadlines have to be met on time will, in turn, maximize profits and keep clients happy so that they want to continue doing business with catena in the future.

The fun did not stop at designing structures! Catena hosts events for the employees throughout the year. This summer, the catena crew went to a Hillsboro Hops baseball game to enjoy America’s national pastime. Catena also celebrates many not-so-well-known national holidays such as National Strawberry Shortcake Day and National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. 🙂

Our summer in Portland was not just about catena though. We were across the country from our hometown and wanted to take advantage of our time in the Pacific Northwest. We got to explore many parts of Portland, as well as venturing away from the city. In Portland, we visited Pittock Mansion, Mt. Tabor, The Pearl District and many more attractions around the city. When we were through exploring Portland, we took weekend trips to Seattle, the Oregon Coast, Redwood National Park, Bend, and much more. In Seattle we walked around the entire city, visiting the space needle, and CenturyLink Field. Everywhere else, we tried to get out in the wilderness and go camping and hiking. One memorable hike was in Olympic National Forest where we hiked to the top of Mount Ellinor, a 6-mile round trip with more than a 3,000-foot elevation gain. Every weekend was an adventure and it was the cherry on top to having a great summer internship at catena.


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