August 06, 2018

For the second summer, Erik Rivas Contreras has found himself interning in quite a jungle-just not the kind you’re thinking of.

Contreras is interning in a jungle of computer code at Gannett Fleming, where he is contributing to the software development of the company’s transit and rail simulation software. Gannett Fleming is an international engineering firm specializing in planning, design and construction management.

“One of the most challenging things of this internship was getting used to working with a large-scale project for the first time,” he said. “There are lots and lots of moving parts in the project code that you must pay attention to or else you’ll just get completely lost. It’s like a cyber jungle in there.”

Transit and rail simulation software are computer programs to help plan, design and operate a railroad or transit system. The software enables the exploration and testing of plans before committing to construction.

Contreras, a senior computer science major from Claremont, N.H., is one member of a “close-knit” development team that has made him realize he’s chosen the right major and career path.

“One of the things that I like the most is being able to go into work every day to solve challenging problems, create new code, exercise creativity and learn something new,” he said.

Contreras credits his coursework and his experience doing web development for Susquehanna’s IT department as preparing him for his Gannett Fleming work. But he said it’s not been without challenges.

As most programmers know, one person’s code is not like the other’s.

“Everybody has their own style of writing code, so I often have to read things more than once in order to understand what is going on,” he said.

With hopes of attending graduate school for artificial intelligence, Contreras is not yet sure what his ultimate career plans are. He may decide to work a few years before graduate school, and if so, he hopes to return again to Gannett Fleming.