Discovery Learning apprenticeship prepares student for grad school

March 27, 2013

In preparation for graduate school, William Beckman, a senior civil engineering student with a structural emphasis, is taking on a Discovery Learning apprenticeship, which allows him to conduct research in an area that he plans on pursuing during his future educational endeavors.

As part of Beckman’s research, he is studying thermal improvement of offshore suction caissons, which is a new, more economical form of foundation for oil rigs, he says. The research specifically looks at the effects of heating the foundation to see if the surrounding soil becomes stronger. If the foundation does strengthen, the foundation does not have to spread as far because it is anchored to the sea floor and connected to the structure.

By adding the research component to Beckman’s undergraduate coursework, he feels that his résumé stands out among his peers because it gives him valuable experience that many other undergraduates lack. When the time for graduate research comes, Beckman will have already gone through many of the required processes and will better understand how to succeed in graduate school.

“The apprenticeship does a great job bridging a gap between my undergrad degree and future graduate degree,” Beckman says. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity because I got to get my foot in the door with research, and now I’m ahead of that pack.”

Beckman is conducting his research with John McCartney, Ph.D., assistant professor of geotechnical engineering and geomechanics, who has been helpful throughout the process, Beckman says.  To help Beckman understand the research process, McCartney has been available for advisement and has provided tools to help Beckman enhance his knowledge on the subject.

Beckman is planning to graduate in May and is deciding between the University of Michigan and the Texas A&M University as his graduate destination.