The Master of Engineering in structural engineering program at Lehigh, led by professor of practice Jennifer Gross, PE, was started in 2008. The 10-month, 30-credit graduate program attracts students from all over the world and is enhanced by robust industry support.

The curriculum excels at balancing the theoretical with the practical, combining coursework with a group project focusing on the design of a real-world structure. Students graduate prepared to address the myriad performance and public welfare decisions involved in large-scale structural engineering projects, and they've gone on to jobs at places like AECOM, DeSimone Consulting Engineers, KCI Technologies, McLaren Engineering Group, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, Thornton Tomasetti, and Wiss Janney Elstner. Others have gone on to receive their Ph.D. in structural engineering.

The Class of 2021 is providing structural engineering for Block G1, a 22-story office building located near the waterfront in Tampa, Florida. The project is sponsored by Industry Advisory Council member, DeSimone Consulting Engineers.  Students will be challenged to design an efficient lateral system under the intense wind loads for this tall structure located in a hurricane prone region.  Throughout the year, students will work in groups to conduct code review, gravity and lateral structural system studies, and finally a complete structural design.  At the end of each semester, findings will be presented to a panel of faculty and structural engineering professionals.  

Here, three current M.Eng. students talk about how they got here, what it's like designing a a 22-story office building located near the waterfront in Tampa, Florida, and what they hope to do upon completing their degrees.

Christopher Romano is from Westfield, New Jersey and graduate from Lafayette College in 2019 with a double major in Civil Engineering and English. 

Becca Inzer is from Downingtown, Pennsylvania and received her B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 2020.

Logan King is from East Hanover, New Jersey, and received his B.S. in civil engineering from Lehigh in 2020.


How did you hear about the M.Eng. program in structural engineering at Lehigh?

Christopher: I heard about the MEng. Program through colleagues I had while working at Titan Engineers in NJ from 2019 - 2020. Anyone I knew who went through this program was extraordinary at their work and spoke highly of the program.

Becca: As an undergraduate at Lehigh, I was able to learn about the program through the professors, and the students involved who were in my senior year classes. After seeing the possibilities available to those in structural engineering, I realized that was the path I wanted to pursue.

Logan: I first heard about the program when I attended an information session held by Professor Gross in the spring semester of my junior year.

What was it about the program that interested you?

Christopher: I really liked how the entirety of the program was geared towards professional practice and that it was condensed into a year's time.

Becca:  I greatly appreciated the industry focus the program provided, and the project-based approach. In order to be more equipped to join a design firm after graduation, I was also interested in the co-op opportunity the M.Eng program provides. By preparing ahead of time as an undergrad, I was able to take a part-time position as a structural co-op with Benesch to obtain real-world skills.

Logan:  I had never really thought about doing a masters, but the program seemed really unique and interesting because of how much it covered in only a year. Professor Gross told us in her structural steel class that an undergraduate degree really just scratches the surface, and the program would allow me to further develop my structural engineering expertise.

How does the program compare to your expectations so far?

Christopher: The program has certainly lived up to its expectations in its rigor and pace, but I'm sure this will prove all the more worthwhile upon its conclusion.

Becca:  It has been different in comparison to other years because there is typically a camaraderie in the group as everyone works together and pushes each other to overcome challenges. With Covid-19, the usual way of working together in groups was not possible and therefore the program had to adjust with the times. There is a new element of challenge for this year's class.

Logan:  From day 1 the program surpassed my expectations. The curriculum focuses on preparing us to excel as engineers, rather than just training us as good students. Each class teaches different key concepts that are actually used in practice which were only glanced over in undergrad.

Tell me about your design project.

Christopher: Our design project this year features a 20 or so story office building on the Tampa, Florida waterfront. I look forward to diving more into the selection process of the structural system for the building this coming semester.

Becca:  The high-rise structure is located in Tampa, Florida, and contains both retail and office spaces. As a team, we worked on completing the code summary, load calculations, and load maps this summer. It has been a great opportunity to incorporate skills I developed through the co-op in order to further the project, such as utilizing Revit. 

Logan:  The building is a 22-story new multi-use structure located in Tampa, Florida. It’s pretty unique because it has a modern design including fitness areas and balconies, but also is located in an area which is prone to sinkholes and high wind from hurricanes. The whole summer was spent developing load maps and finding out exactly how much load the structure will have to resist.

Do you know what you want to do when you finish school? And has the program at all changed your future plans?

Christopher: Right now, my plan is to re-enter the structural building design industry upon graduation and work within it until obtaining my P.E. licensure. The program as of yet has not changed this plan of mine, but surely we will see what time has in store!

Becca:  After graduation, I am searching for opportunities in design firms on the East Coast. Initially I was planning on pursuing a design position, however technical electives broadened my scope for potential job paths. Security design and forensic work are both two new avenues I would like to explore as career options.

Logan:  I have been lucky enough to have had internships in a few different areas like forensic analysis and geotechnical design, and I have worked as a concrete field engineer on a power plant job. I wanted to spread myself out and learn as much as I could, so after school I think I want to go into consulting where I can use my broader knowledge to my advantage. The program has given me the ability to analyze complex problems and come up with innovative solutions, so I definitely want to stay in the structural engineering field.

What are some skills or personality traits you should have if you're going to succeed in this program?

Christopher: I would think that most applicants considering a program like this already possess many of the tools they'll need to succeed. Some of these tools include hard work, dedication, the ability to get along well and work with others, the ability to balance a lot of different tasks happening at once, and the ability to take initiative on those tasks early on.

Becca:  In order to succeed, it is important to have strong time management because it is up to the design team to determine their pace to make sure all the deliverables are in on time. It is also important to be willing to learn along the way, and volunteer to learn new topics in order to further the project and benefit the group.

Logan:  You have to be comfortable with not being in control at every step along the way. Things will go wrong, plans will change, and you won’t know everything about a certain subject. The important thing to remember is that as long as you are moving forward, you will get where you are going.