From Legos to Light Rail: KAI Internship Gives Australian Johnny Lin Firsthand Experience

January 31, 2012

From a young age, Johnny Lin was fascinated by Legos, and by taking things apart and trying to put them back together. “That’s how I destroyed my first watch,” he said with a laugh.

So while he was always interested in how things worked, it wasn’t until Johnny started his studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane that his focus turned to engineering. He chose to pursue a dual degree in civil engineering and economics, and is poised to enter his sixth and final year at the school on Australia’s east coast.

On top of his studies, Johnny has gained a valuable measure of practical engineering experience, interning with Kittelson & Associates, Inc. as part of a program considered a cornerstone of the firm’s comprehensive commitment to professional development.

Johnny, who learned about KAI while reading a website maintained by a professional engineering organization in Australia, took the initiative and contacted the firm’s Brisbane office about opportunities. That led to an internship in the United States, which marked Lin’s first trip to America and KAI’s first internship by a student from Australia.

Johnny said he appreciated that expectations for his internship were clearly laid out from the start and that he was able to work with his KAI mentors, Chris Brehmer and Alison Tanaka, and university professors to tailor a framework plan for the experience.

Johnny said he’s enjoyed the variety of work since his internship began last November. Among other things, he has been involved in transportation impact studies and also took part in a project to assess the effectiveness of speed feedback signs on driver behavior.

I wanted to learn and grow as a professional. The fact that I’ve had this experience with a company like KAI gives me a leg up in terms of what to expect in the professional field. Overall, I feel like this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and that it’s going to help a lot moving forward.

Johnny also volunteered with professional organizations and visited KAI’s Baltimore office – the latter during a recent trip to attend the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. A highlight of TRB was a presentation on light rail and its applications in France. Johnny said he welcomed the exposure to the topic because it is not covered in his university coursework.

In the small-world department, Johnny met a couple of doctoral students from the University of Queensland who he did not know and who were presenting their work at TRB. Johnny also squeezed in some sightseeing, visiting the Smithsonian and national monuments. “You see them on TV, but it’s definitely different being there.”

Lin, who was born in Taiwan but has lived mostly in Australia, said he’s enjoyed the personal side of his U.S. stint. It wasn’t a major culture shock because there is no language barrier, and while Lin said America is “definitely different” than Australia, he said the reasons why are difficult to pin down.

The moment I got off the plane it was obvious I was in America.

Lin’s internship wraps up in late February. He plans to stay in touch with KAI and would like to explore professional opportunities with the firm when he earns his degree this November, citing the importance of the professional connections he has made the last couple of months. “If coming back to the U.S. is a possibility, that’s something I would be interested in,” he said.

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