MnDOT intern takes engineering from Navy seas to Minnesota roads
“The magnitude of serving in the military—and now being a student—is hard to comprehend,” says former US Navy Petty Officer Second Class and University of Minnesota civil engineering senior Deven Leidall. “I sometimes have to remind myself I was in the military and deployed because of all the changes in transitioning from military to civilian life.”
This summer, Leidall participated in the Civil Engineering Internship Program, a partnership between CTS and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) that gives students hands-on professional experience to help them prepare for careers in transportation. Now in its eighth year, the program had 17 interns, including 12 from the U of M.
For Leidall, the MnDOT internship is an opportunity to draw from his education in civil engineering and his experience as a Naval nuclear machinist mate to design metro area roadways, crosswalks, and sidewalks.
“I have learned a lot about how and why our sidewalks and roadways are built the way they are, from where people stand when waiting to cross a road to designing roadways to discourage illegal U-turns,” he says. “The main idea is to create an aesthetically pleasing, highly functional and safe path from the start of a project to the end.”
But there are distinct differences from Leidall’s six years spent as an enlisted sailor maintaining and operating a nuclear reactor and his civilian life now as an intern and a full-time U of M student.
“The [nuclear] reactor was 24/7. It’s what pushes the ship through the water and produces electricity,” Leidall says. “It was a lot of pressure knowing something you do to the reactor could affect so many people on and around the carrier.”
Leidall says his two grandfathers, who served in the Navy, inspired him to join the military as a way to see the world. While he was deployed in the Persian Gulf for nine months in 2014, he says his role as a training petty officer was focused on combat readiness for the sailors in his division.
“There were so many perks that happened throughout my military career I would have never experienced if I hadn’t joined,” Leidall says. “I’d do it all again if I had the chance—joining the Navy, going to the U of M, and taking this internship.”
“I definitely think I’m a different student now than if I had come here right after high school,” Leidall says, adding that he always knew the U of M would be where he’d continue his education. “It felt like home for me, and I always saw it as the best school—and I wanted to shoot for the best.”
Leidall plans to continue his work at MnDOT during the coming school year and, following graduation, seek a master’s degree at the University or apply for the MnDOT graduate engineer program.
(Adapted from an article written by Meagan Pierluissi.)