James Collett

Scholarship Status: Awarded 1st Place
Scholarship Awarded: Geotechnical Scholarship
University: UCI
Date of Graduation: 3/2017


First, my sincerest thanks to the Orange County ASCE chapter for the availability of this scholarship and for the investment the OC Chapter has in the next generation of civil engineers. I am grateful for the opportunity to apply for this award, and would like to thank you in advance for your time and effort to review my documents. Please allow me to introduce myself: I am a graduate of UC Irvine’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on Structural Engineering. While in my undergraduate studies, I took a strong interest in geotechnical engineering and applied for an internship with a local geotechnical engineering firm the summer following my sophomore year. This internship developed into a part-time employment as a field technician that I was able to maintain thereafter. I consider myself a very practical person, and the hands-on nature of geotechnics and foundation design appeal to my personality. I find it particularly captivating to see dozens of hours of analysis and design translate into reality, often on a grand scale. This cultivated passion for geotechnical engineering sparked my interest to study the subject further within the framework of undergraduate research courses. Hereby I contributed to two ongoing research efforts: (1) I worked alongside a PhD student on the “findapile.com” database, which is currently the largest online platform and collection of load tests performed on laterally loaded piles, and (2) I performed an extensive review of available technologies to capture skin friction in laterally loaded deep foundations. I completed my undergraduate studies with a Bachelor Honors thesis that focused on the contribution of skin friction to the “diameter effect” of pile, a well-known and controversial issue in the foundation community. Alongside these research efforts, I completed the fundamental soil mechanics course at the top of my class, also completing the undergraduate and graduate-level foundation design courses--all three of which further solidified my interest in geotechnical engineering. Since Fall 2015 I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Structural Engineering (there is no official geotechnical MSc degree at UCI). In addition to my course work, I am studying the behavior of highway bridge abutment walls subject to lateral loading based on stress strain behavior gathered from triaxial shear testing of the respective backfill material. This effort will culminate in a Master thesis to complete my degree next spring. My research interests are most piqued in topics like this, with advancements that are practical and applicable for practicing engineers without sacrificing accuracy or current research understanding. Translating research into practice is something that I would like to devote my career to, both as a future PE, and with hope towards progressing onto Ph.D. studies. There are so many discoveries left to make in geotechnical engineering, and I aspire to be an active part of this progress in the future.


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