For Matthew Pritzl, a professional engineer based out of Donan’s Milwaukee Office, there are a lot of connections between the classroom and the field. “The methodology I use when conducting research is very similar to the way I approach a forensic investigation,” explained Pritzl, who has taken initial steps toward earning his Ph.D. in structural engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “I don’t go into either with a set notion. I study the evidence and the information I’m given, and then use the scientific method to reach a conclusion based on what the data is telling me.”
The pursuit of continued education is an important one to Pritzl, as evidenced by his academic history. He came to the field of forensic engineering after first obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in architectural studies, followed by Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in structural engineering. “I like doing research and working on a problem,” Pritzl says of his academic drive.
His experience in the field has influenced his academic pursuits as much as his advanced education has informed his work in the field. Pritzl wrote his master’s thesis on concrete rehabilitation and says he’s often been able to draw on that knowledge during field inspections: “When I look at settling or other issues with concrete, I can go back to what I have researched about concrete and why it fails, and use that information to help determine the cause of loss.”
Sections of Pritzl’s thesis have recently been published in both the International Journal of Concrete Structures and Materials, and the International Journal of Corrosion. His research findings helped the Wisconsin Department of Transportation implement improved practices to prevent corrosion of concrete bridges.
Pritzl credits the quality of his work to tried and true data-gathering and problem-solving strategies, which he also applies during forensic investigations. “With forensic engineering, it’s a lot like the research I do,” he explained, emphasizing the challenge of the work he does for Donan. “I have to work backwards. Here’s what happened, now determine why.”
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