Greg Ellsworth, a fourth-year student at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, has found working with engineering faculty on projects outside the classroom to be a benefit for the career he plans to undertake in surveying engineering.
Ellsworth is a surveying engineering major from Factoryville who graduated from Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School. After a year at another college in a different program that wasn’t a good fit for him, he chose to study surveying engineering after some encouragement from his father.
“My dad had a large influence on me and pushed me toward surveying engineering,” Ellsworth said. “I started researching the profession myself and thought it would be a good fit. I love to be outdoors and work with my hands. I also like the historical component of land surveying and researching the history of the properties you’re working on.”
While researching surveying engineering programs, he found that Penn State Wilkes-Barre is the only ABET-accredited school in Pennsylvania and one of fewer than 30 in the country to offer such a program.
“Considering that, and that Penn State is known for engineering, it seemed like the perfect place for me,” he said.
Ellsworth found himself impressed by the personal interaction in the program and ability to work closely with faculty members.
“Since the class sizes are small, you get a lot of individualized attention,” he said. “I have a lot of great relationships with my professors, especially Dr. Bolkas. I have been working with him for two years on an independent study project and am gaining a lot of unique experience I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
Working together, Ellsworth and Bolkas are using a laser scanner device to collect data. They also collect data with drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and compare the accuracies of the two methods. Ellsworth and Bolkas collected data at the Francis E. Walter Dam and are working on monitoring levees in Kingston and Forty Fort in collaboration with the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority. They have also submitted a paper to an international conference on deformation monitoring.
“I was pleased to learn Greg received the University’s Erickson Discovery Grant to conduct undergraduate research,” Bolkas said. “Through his involvement with the research project, he was able to collect data using modern technologies to monitor engineering structures. This is a great opportunity for hand-on experience with some interesting projects outside of the classroom.”
The Rodney A. Erickson Discovery Grant Program, named for Penn State’s 17th president, supports undergraduate student engagement in original research, scholarship and creative work under the direct supervision of a research mentor. Erickson Discovery Grants are directed to student-initiated projects in the arts, engineering, humanities, sciences and social sciences that provide experience in all facets of the research, scholarship or creative processes. Ellsworth received a grant in support of his project “Rockfall Monitoring in PA."
“I like the opportunity to work with some licensed professionals who are professors in the program,” Ellsworth said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from professionals who are actually in the industry doing the work.”
He said that the surveying engineering program prepared him well for his internship with Milnes Engineering, a Tunkhannock firm where he hopes to work full time after graduation. Ellsworth also plans to pursue a Professional Engineer license.
“My professors have given me the basic skills required to do the job and provided me with a lot of the theory behind the methods used by surveyors,” Ellsworth said. “Because of that, I understand the reason behind why I do certain things both in the field and in the office. That has allowed me to adapt quickly to what I’m doing.”
On campus, Ellsworth is president of the Surveying Society, a student-led club that was formed for the betterment of Penn State Wilkes-Barre surveying students. Their activities include fundraising, volunteering and inviting speakers such as potential employers to campus. Off campus, Ellsworth plays guitar and bass in local band The Summits, based out of the Clarks Summit/Scranton area.