Rajat Gangrade

Ph.D. Student, Colorado School of Mines
Leader of the UCA student chapter at Mines

What are you studying and how did you get started in Underground Construction?

I am a Ph.D. student and I’m studying the characterization of geotechnical and geological uncertainty and tunneling risk. I’m in my third year. I earned my Civil Engineering degree in India and then completed my Masters in Geotechnical Engineering at Virginia Tech. After, I worked on multiple transportation projects in Iowa with CH2M as a Geotechnical Engineer. Then I moved back to India and joined AECOM where I worked for two years on the Mumbai Metro Line 3. This project was a big inspiration to continue this work.

What do you think surprises engineers that are learning about Underground Construction?

I think that a lot of engineers don’t realize the role that underground construction plays in developing solutions for cities and communities. Right now, a lot of work is happening around developing solutions to control flooding in cities. This is connected to the changing environment and is happening world-wide. As people and cities continue to change and evolve, the underground work becomes more important as we try to keep the surface thriving and safe.

What drew you into the underground construction field?

I was fascinated by digging beneath cities. In Mumbai, we were digging under heritage structures. The application of engineering and physics principles in real life, while we were using our machines, is very exciting to engineers. That was the tipping point for me.

What is your advice for an engineer looking for a field to enter?

Underground construction and tunneling is the future. More cities are looking for sustainable solutions and tunneling and underground construction will always be in demand. Undergraduate engineers from different disciplines should visit project sites and see the ways that computer, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering all have applications in tunneling. It is helpful to connect with industry professionals because they can help them understand the transition from academia to application. Attending on-campus presentations by speakers in the industry and conferences are great ways to make connections to pursue jobs and internships.

What is it like to work as an engineer on underground projects?

Underground construction is one of the most complex engineering environments. There is no blueprint created for what we do. There is a lot of collaboration across disciplines and many disciplines are important to completing projects. There are applications for all types of engineering on projects. This is a small community and we share knowledge. Because every project involves new challenges, we all share how we solve problems. Everyone contributes to their solutions to continue to innovate for the next project.