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Building a state-of-the-art facility

Kristen Blackbird, a senior civil engineering major, completed a co-op with Gilbane Building Company, the general contractor for Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Senior civil engineering major Kristen Blackbird reflected upon the magnitude of her contribution to Northeastern’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security during the facility’s opening ceremony in September.

“I had this realization that the work I did really meant something important, that this building will be used for some incredible research and do great things for our university,” she recalled.

The secure, state-of-the-art research facility — located on the university’s campus in Burlington, Mass., and funded by a $12 million investment from alumnus George J. Kostas, E’43, H’07 — is critical to advancing Northeastern’s leadership in security research.

For her part, Blackbird completed a co-op with Gilbane Building Company, the Kostas project’s general contractor. She worked at the site every day, inspecting materials that arrived from subcontractors, taking notes and photos of the building’s construction progress and ensuring that particular sections of the building were installed correctly.

Blackbird also worked with both the architect and subcontractors to answer questions about the building’s design sketches, helped complete the building’s LEED certification proposals and prepared the project’s closeout document by compiling thousand of drawings and inspection forms.   

Blackbird said Northeastern’s co-op program played a huge role in her decision to attend the university. Her co-op with Gilbane — her third — had shouldered her with more responsibility than ever before.

On a previous co-op, Blackbird worked for the general contractor on a $55 million wastewater treatment plant renovation in Providence, R.I. The experiential-learning opportunity, she said, solidified her desire to pursue construction management as a career and led her to the co-op with Gilbane.

“It’s beautiful to see what’s on paper built right in front of you,” Blackbird said. “It’s like finishing a puzzle and seeing the final product.”