May 7, 2019
By Noah Pflueger-Peters
The Geotechnical Graduate Student Society at UC Davis (GGSS) hosted its 12th annual Round Table and open house on March 8, drawing a record number of attendees and celebrating another year of geotechnical engineering at UC Davis. A packed UC Davis Conference Center was treated to day of presentations and poster sessions on the latest geotechnical engineering research from UC Davis civil and environmental engineering graduate students, along with the opportunity to network with friends, industry members, alumni and prospective students.
The event featured three sets of presentations from graduate students, two poster sessions and a panel about project management featuring four representatives from industry. President Alex Sturm welcomed the group to start the day, reviewing the last year at GGSS and highlighting the personal and professional accomplishments of group members.
Sturm, who assumed the role of president in 2018, first attended the round table as a prospective student six years ago and has been to every one since. The event has grown considerably in that time, in large part due to the connections made at the event. Industry attendees tell their friends and colleagues about the event, and GGSS alumni help spread the word as they enter the workforce.
“It’s a special event,” said Sturm. “The collaboration between academia and industry is unparalleled and it’s an amazing opportunity to set up these connections.”
The event has become something of a gathering place for the geotechnical industry. Some are there to scout out the research being done at UC Davis and look for potential employees, some come to meet with UC Davis faculty and researchers to talk about collaborations, others come to reconnect with old industry friends and others still come as GGSS alumni who want to return and support the event that played a big role in their lives in careers.
Former GGSS president Kate Darby, now a member of industry who returned this year, reported that she, along with almost 90% of GGSS graduates, found a job through the event.
“It’s a great recruiting tool,” said Adrian Wightman of BGC Engineering in Vancouver. “UC Davis is doing some of the best research on earthquakes and geotechnical [engineering].”
“You discover problems in industry and solve problems in academia,” explained Lisheng Shao, a representative from construction engineering company Hayward Baker, Inc. who regularly consults UC Davis’ geotechnical experts Jason DeJong and Ross Boulanger. “We can learn from them and implement [their solutions].”
Part of what makes the round table a unique event is that it’s completely student run. The organization includes one of the geotechnical faculty members as an adviser each year, but the officers and members run the show—the students are the ones building relationships with industry, spreading the word and organizing the event.
“It’s active,” said postdoctoral scholar Atefeh Zamani. “I feel like everyone’s interested in joining in, both in research and participation.”
This year’s round table drew over 160 attendees, consisting of 70 members of industry and government, 45 graduate students, prospective graduate students and UC Davis faculty. Next year’s round table will take place on Friday, March 13, 2020 and the organization hopes the event will be even larger.