KINGSTON, R.I. – May 10, 2010 – When Jeff Bernard was deciding what college to attend, he sought a program that could merge his interests in chemistry, math and the Spanish language. As he prepares to graduate from the University of Rhode Island’s International Engineering Program with degrees in chemical engineering and Spanish, he’s confident that he made the right choice.
“I had taken a 10-day trip to Spain in high school, and I had a great time traveling around the country and enjoying the culture,” said Bernard, a resident of Leominster, Mass. “I knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish and combine that with chemistry and math, and the International Engineering Program was the perfect fit.”
The program enabled him to spend a year in Spain, studying for half the time at the University of Zaragoza and later interning at a global company. During his academic semester abroad, he lived with a local family that made him home-cooked meals and helped him gain confidence speaking Spanish.
“When I first got there, I was a little hesitant with the language, and the engineering terms were especially hard to learn in Spanish,” said Bernard, “but they helped me get up to speed and learn some of the colloquial sayings. By the time I got to the internship, I found myself speaking confidently and everyone understood me. That was a good feeling.”
Bernard interned at the global consulting firm Idom, where he worked on the design of an oil refinery.
“They already had the basic design of the refinery, but they were getting comments and changes from the client,” he explained. “I took the comments and implemented them into the design. I took it system by system and then moved on to the next one. We completed revisions to seven or eight systems in the time I was there.”
Back at URI, Bernard participated in a research project at the University’s nuclear reactor where he set up and calibrated a small-angle neutron scattering device that allows scientists to observe the properties of a substance on a very small scale. The device shoots neutrons at materials to assess their structure.
Bernard’s experiences at URI convinced him that he wants a career as a design engineer working for a global company that will enable him to work on engineering projects around the world.
“I came to URI not really knowing what to expect of college,” he said. “The International Engineering Program was really challenging, and the professors were great. I felt really comfortable talking with them and they were always easy to approach. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life.”
URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.