This week, we are featuring Jake Branson, a 2nd Year MS Candidate and the Student Chapter President for the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA).
Since the professional Master of Engineering in Railway Engineering (MEng) is so new, we have asked current Master of Science (MS) students in the Railway Engineering Program to share their experiences with faculty, curriculum, and student life at Illinois. Railway MEng students take courses alongside the Railway MS students, so we thought Jake’s insights may be helpful.
Jake Branson started his MS in Civil Engineering in Fall 2017 after earning his Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Missouri-St. Louis/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program. Jake has been interested in working the Railway Industry for quite some time, so he was attracted to Illinois Rail Transportation Engineering Center (RailTEC). He considered a similar program, but chose Illinois “due to its large scope and numerous options for coursework and research.” He also really liked the community aspect of the program, “the students and faculty are very close and all share common goals of advancing the railroad industry.”
When asked about his experience with the Railway Engineering program, Jake had great things to say, “The faculty in RailTEC bring experience from all aspects of railway engineering and research. The experiences and enthusiasm brought by the faculty have been instrumental in allowing me to learn about the rail industry from both a practical and theoretical standpoint. The curriculum is tremendously encompassing and touches on several key aspects of what makes railroading important and effective.” He also likes that the “networking opportunities with current and future railroad professionals [are] incredibly strong here.”
The faculty and staff in RailTEC are as fond of Jake as he is of them. Research Scientist and Senior Lecturer J. Riley Edwards, P.E., serves as Jake’s advisor. He sees Jake’s “tremendous passion for the field of rail transportation and engineering. This enthusiasm is contagious to his fellow classmates and is noticed by the CEE and RailTEC faculty.” Riley sees a bright future for Jake, “Combining passion for railway engineering with RailTEC’s research and educational programs creates the perfect environment for growth as a young professional.”
Another way Jake demonstrates that potential is in his role as Illinois’ AREMA Student Chapter President, where he facilitates some of the networking opportunities with Railway Engineering students on campus. In the past year, the AREMA Student Chapter has hosted representatives from Kiewit, Union Pacific, BNSF, WSP, and Railroad Development Corporation. The AREMA Student Chapter also takes fields trips and does site visits. Coming up on October 12, they are hosting a field trip to tour large river bridges and a composite crosstie manufacturing plant in St. Louis.
Jake’s advice to someone considering a Master of Engineering in Railway Engineering? “The railroad is a strong and growing industry, one that is in demand of talented engineers and professionals to keep it moving forward. A master’s in railway engineering will be a rewarding and relevant degree that is certain to pay off in the professional world.”