By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 3/5/21
Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Intern Isuru Abeysiriwardana has spent most of his career in academics and hopes to continue doing research in environmental engineering. However, Abeysiriwardana is spending some time getting real-life field exposure thanks to a collaboration between LCU and New Mexico State University (NMSU).
Since January 2021, Abeysiriwardana, an NMSU Ph.D. student, has seen and helped with the inner workings of project management, design, and planning, under the guidance of LCU Senior Engineer Waleed Abu-Issa, P.E.
“It’s one thing to know how to design something, but to see the actual structure you’re designing, to walk around it and talk to the operators who use it every day, it helps inform how the end plans are integrated for the benefit of all of its uses and users,” Abu-Issa said.
Abeysiriwardana agreed, “I’ve seen it in books, calculated the designs, but getting up close with the primary clarifiers, particularly as they’re being rehabilitated, has given me an entirely different understanding, especially seeing the environment around it.”
NMSU professor and Ed & Harold Foreman Endowed Chair Nirmala Khandan, Ph.D., P.E., explained that Abeysiriwardana and a second intern, Himali Delanka Pedige, were among only 260 students selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the INTERN Award, which includes six months of funding.
“The NMSU proposal in collaboration with LCU was based on our joint efforts over the past eight years in running a pilot-scale facility at the LCU’s wastewater treatment facility and was viewed very favorably by NSF,” Khandan said. “I believe this non-academic experience provided by LCU will add immense value to the educational and research experience that Himali and Isuru received during their graduate studies at NMSU.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: LCU Senior Engineer Waleed Abu-Issa, P.E. and LCU Intern Isuru Abeysiriwardana go over designs for a new program thanks to a collaboration between LCU and NMSU.