Engineering alums build skills with Modjeski & Masters
When Elizabethtown College engineering major Jack Hess attended a presentation about movable bridges in his senior year, he unknowingly sowed the seeds of his post-graduation career.
Hess, a 2014 E-town graduate, said he was fascinated by the presentation given by mechanical and electrical engineers from Modjeski & Masters, a Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, bridge engineering firm.
“I was fascinated by the prospect of working on machinery and structures of this scale,” Hess said. “I made my interest known and was offered a chance to interview that August.”
Three and a half years later, he is an employee of the Movable (drawbridge) Bridge Business Unit at Modjeski & Masters, whose legacy dates back to 1893, when founders Ralph Modjeski and Frank Masters made their mark on the bridge services industry. (The Masters Center for Science, Mathematics and Engineering at Elizabethtown College was named after Frank Masters, son of the Modjeski & Masters founder and one-time partner of the firm.) Today, the company constructs and refurbishes bridges across the nation with offices as far west as Colorado.
E-town prepared me by giving me a rock-solid foundation of engineering principles.”
One of the presenters, Modjeski & Masters’ Director of Mechanical Engineering Jeffrey Newman, became Hess’s supervisor when he joined the company. Newman, who works closely with mechanical and electrical engineers, said certain traits separate perfect-fit candidates from the rest.
“I would say that a general characteristic is an eagerness to learn new things,” Newman said.
He cited Hess as a prime example of a lifelong learner, the kind of employee Modjeski & Masters strives to hire.
“We have a strong technical base here, and we are confident that, as long as the prospective employee has shown that they can achieve the grades, then we have confidence that we can train them the rest of the way,” Newman said. “We need to have confidence that they have learning skills and that they can learn on the job.”
Hess said E-town trained him how to expect the unexpected and handle those situations with all the tools at his disposal.
“E-town prepared me by giving me a rock-solid foundation of engineering principles,” Hess said. “Additionally, the classes and projects provided many opportunities to apply these principles to unfamiliar situations.”
For Newman, that educational foundation is another integral element of a perfect fit employee.
“What we’re looking for is a good general background in engineering […] and an interest in this field,” Newman said.
Engineering and Physics Professor Kurt DeGoede said alums who applied to and were accepted by Modjeski & Masters share characteristics that the company finds so important.
“[They] always embraced a challenge and sought out opportunities to reach a deeper understanding,” DeGoede said.
The professor also explained that E-town’s goal is to nurture “engineers with strength across multiple engineering disciplines and a broad worldview to understand the context of engineering problems.”
Hess agreed with this sentiment, describing how E-town professors went beyond basic lecture-exam teaching formats. “Rather than just helping us learn information, they taught us how to apply it to things we hadn’t studied explicitly,” Hess said.
Application of familiar skills to unfamiliar scenarios is an important ability to have when it comes to constructing movable bridges. According to DeGoede, “the work crosses disciplinary boundaries and has a direct positive impact in communities and industries across the U.S. and beyond.”
Newman said the opportunities offered by Modjeski & Masters are perfect for community-builders and curious learners—the same types of students who attend E-town.
“My perception is that it’s a very good fit with the graduates that E-town is producing with mechanical and electrical engineering and what we do, and I expect that long-term success to continue with E-town graduates,” Newman said.