Student on the job at Ground Zero

NJIT senior Muhammad Elgammal on the job at Ground Zero

NJIT senior Muhammad Elgammal worked this summer as an intern for the Port Authority, and as such he got to work on the reconstruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) site.

“When I first arrived at the WTC site, I just stopped and took it all in,” said Muhammad, a civil engineering major. “There were hundreds of construction workers all of over the site, where Towers 1, 2, and 3 and the memorial are going up.  They were preparing for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by installing temporary fencing along the perimeter of the site. I just stood there awhile observing the historic scene. Then I started work.”

Muhammad tested the concrete that was poured for the massive reconstruction at the WTC site. He worked at the site for just a few days, but nonetheless it was a heady experience for him, one he’ll never forget.

He was one of four NJIT students who interned this summer for the engineering departments of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, based in Jersey City. In this interview, Muhammad talks about his internship.

How did you get the internship?
A fellow NJIT student introduced me to an engineer at the Port Authority.  I applied for the internship and got it. They hired about 100 interns overall and hired five of us from NJIT.

Was it a paid internship?
Yes--and the Port Authority pay its interns very well. So I learned a lot, made good money and enjoyed my job. I also have it to add to my resume, which will help me get a job after I graduate. 

What was your official title and what does the Port Authority do?
I was an engineering aide for the PA’s Material Engineering Department, which is responsible for inspections and quality assurance of the materials used on the bridges and tunnels and ports and airports under the PA’s jurisdiction. That includes the two tunnels, three bridges, five airports, five marine terminals, three bus terminals, and several development sites including the World Trade Center site.

What was your main job for the summer?
I assisted field and lab technicians in routine and non-routine testing of concrete and asphalt, mostly concrete. My main job was to assure and inspect concrete pours for the PA. Every time a concrete truck is ordered for a PA site, its technicians must assure that the concrete meets specifications for the job.

When in the field, I would check for temperature, workability, air content and sometimes the water-cement ratio. If everything would check out, I would make specimens to bring to the lab later. In the lab, located at the PA’s Technical Center in Jersey City, I would prepare those sample specimens for breaking to check for their compressive strength.

What other work did you do aside from the WTC site?
They rotated me often. I did work at most of the region’s airports. At the Newark Airport, I helped resurface a taxiway. Every Friday evening, I worked testing concrete at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which was undergoing repairs. I also spent a week at JFK Airport constructing forms for a Research and Development project the department was working on in conjunction with the FAA, NASA and the University of Dayton.

Overall, was it a good experience?
Absolutely.  At the Port Authority, I was in the field often and learned a lot about another aspect of the construction process.  Although at first it seemed that my work consisted of menial jobs, I quickly realized that one day I can easily say to my family, “I was there when the when the WTC site was being rebuilt.” The value of the knowledge, insight, and exposure I experienced was priceless. Whether I end up working in construction engineering or design, this internship helped me understand this field that much better and will help me get a good job after I graduate.