Vicksburg, Miss.—Seattle District civil engineer Ian Pumo was interested in pursuing a master’s degree and viewed opportunities offered through the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center University as “a great way to get a taste of that and see what (he) might like to pursue in grad school.”
Now in its fifth year, ERDC-U features six-month sessions, which are sponsored by the Directorate of Human Capital and the Office of Research and Technology Transfer. Division and district selectees are paired with ERDC subject-matter experts to apply and implement technical solutions.
“Each participant serves as a member of the interdisciplinary research and development team, reporting to lead project managers and/or direct program managers,” said ERDC-U Program Manager and ORTT Technology, Knowledge and Outreach Division Chief Tisa Webb. “The program’s missions are to transition technologies between ERDC and USACE, strengthening the technical knowledge base, and to provide developmental opportunities for USACE engineers and scientists, while working on real-world solutions.”
“I’ve always wanted to get into R&D… Also, I’ve become more and more interested in how USACE missions and processes should change in response to, and to prepare for, climate change,” Pumo said. “How should our emergency management and flood risk management missions change given increasingly frequent and severe storms? I saw ERDC-U as an opportunity to explore these questions and gain insight into how the center is doing the same.”
After graduating from Seattle University with bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, followed by service as a Department of Army intern for the New York District, Pumo joined the Seattle District in 2016. Now, as chief of cost engineering, he leads a team of interdisciplinary engineers who make construction estimates, schedules and risk analyses for various military and environmental agency civil works projects.
Engineering With Nature Project Missions
While working with Dr. Igor Linkov, a research physical scientist with ERDC’s Environmental Laboratory in Vicksburg, Pumo’s main project is building a business case for natural infrastructure investments.
“The key questions to answer here are how the existing USACE planning process is and isn’t well suited to Engineering With Nature projects; how to quantify the fuzzier costs and resilience benefits associated with these projects; and how to change the planning process so it can consider the full scope of benefits provided by EWN projects,” Pumo said, adding that Linkov’s group is based in Concord, Mass., as part of the Risk and Decision Science Team Focus Area.
His project goals include:
- Learning how planning processes do or don’t change, understand the roadblocks;
- Becoming well versed in resilience analysis, and how it is similar to and different from risk analysis;
- How we can build resilience considerations into our processes.
“I have two other running thoughts, not directly related to this project,” Pumo said. “Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through a resilience lens, how do our systems recover, and what do we do to make that happen? How much of that is a proactive vs reactive? How can we learn from responses in different communities, regions, states and nations? “
“Find ways that ERDC researchers can work with the Cost Community of Practice to build new tools and processes,” Pumo said. “I’ve already made some connections with ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory and Information Technology Laboratory that I’m sure will bear fruit in the coming years.”
For Pumo, ERDC-U kickoff activities held the first week of March were also a great addition to his experience.
“Kickoff week was a blast,” Pumo said. “Just an onslaught of opportunities, and everyone seemed so excited about their work. Honestly it could be two weeks long. The Vicksburg National Battlefield tour was fantastic too.”
For more information on the ERDC University program, visit https://wiki.erdc.dren.mil/ERDC_University