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Bridges, big name projects among senior’s research achievements

Headshot of a man, Zach Treece

Zach Treece is recognized as the recipient of the 2013 outstanding senior in civil engineering at the 2013 Missouri Honor Awards Banquet. He has work three internships and conducted undergraduate research under civil engineering assistant professor Sarah Orton, both of which have allowed him to work on public entities, such as bridges and venues.

Zach Treece’s three internships have allowed him to work on some notable projects. The civil engineering senior has spent past summers with Kansas City-based Thornton Tomasetti and Kiewit Power Engineers, intertwining his time there with academic life and undergraduate research in Columbia. His internships with Thornton Tomasetti have allowed him to work on projects that include sporting venues and nationally televised award shows.

“I worked on a rigging analysis at the Bridgestone Arena making sure the weights of speakers and lighting were compatible with existing roof loads for the CMT [Country Music Television] Awards,” he said, adding that he’s also worked on professional sports facilities in Minneapolis, New Orleans and Green Bay, Wis., for the company.

Treece’s father, Robert, also is an engineer and works for Thornton Tomasetti. Treece joked that his father’s desk at the company is “probably 20 steps” from his.

“My dad’s a structural engineer from Mizzou,” Treece said. “So, I followed in his footsteps.”

Interning with a company and working on notable projects has served as great, real-world experience, Treece said, as has three years of undergraduate research conducted with Sarah Orton, an assistant professor of civil engineering since his sophomore year.

“I got into undergraduate research by chance. I was captain of the concrete canoe team and met another student who was doing undergraduate research. I learned it was something I wanted to do,” Treece said.

He completed a feasibility study that looked at blast damage in concrete, which he completed in the fall 2011. Last spring, he and other members of Orton’s research team began examining disproportionate collapse in flat plate buildings. Most recently, he assisted in testing structure and soil interactions, particularly as applied to bridges.

“The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is requiring the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) load-rate bridges,” Treece said. “With box-culvert bridges like we see around mid-Missouri, more soil below the road surface means there is less stress on the bridge, resulting in greater traffic capacity.”

Treece looked at five small bridges in central Missouri. His work wrapped-up at the end of the semester and is now under review by Orton’s graduate students.

Treece left active membership on the concrete canoe team after beginning his second year of undergraduate research, choosing instead to be involved with the team’s parent organization in an officer role. As the president of MU’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, he leads the group that sponsors civil engineering student teams including concrete canoe, steel bridge and geowall.

ASCE teams competed in April at the organization’s 2013 Mid-Continent Student Conference. There, Treece’s paper won the technical paper award for MU’s ASCE chapter. The organization also competed in the American Concrete Institute’s FRP Composites Competition that month in Minneapolis.

This spring, Treece was recognized as the outstanding senior for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the 2013 Missouri Honor Awards banquet. After completing his undergraduate studies next spring, he plans to earn his master’s degree. Ultimately, he’d like to be a structural engineering consultant and own his own business.