Seven of 12 engineers currently leading the planning and design efforts

on one of the largest capital projects that global aluminum giant Alcoa has in the works are graduates of Clarkson University.
While the aluminum industry continues to feel the impact of the global economic crisis, Alcoa still considers the potential modernization of the Massena East plant to be a sound investment. The modernization project, which will cost at least $600 million, is also tied to the finalization of the company's long-term hydropower contract with the New York Power Authority, key to the Massena plants' long-term viability.
When the impact of the economic crunch began to hit home, the company decided to move forward with project planning but to bring all project work in-house, using the skills and talents of engineers who were already on the payroll. When the final team of 12 who will lead the project planning over the next two years was assembled, the diverse group represented a variety of disciplines, ages and experiences. But it also represented one commonality: seven of the 12 team members turned out to have experienced a Clarkson education. Together, the leadership group will use their combined 105 years of experience to breathe life into the design of what - if approved by the Alcoa Board of Directors - will be the first new aluminum smelter built in the U.S. in decades.

The team is charged with moving forward with engineering, environmental permitting and operations readiness planning and ensuring that the project is poised to launch into high gear as soon as the economy recovers. The goal: design safety, sustainability and efficient operation in design cost out.

The local project leader is William Gerber '88 (ME), who provides direction to the team and interfaces between the plant and other Alcoa divisions involved in the project. Robert Lenney '86 (CEE and left wing on the hockey team 1982-86) is Environmental, Health and Safety Manager for the project, while Steven Marsh '90 (E&M and a former Clarkson classroom instructor) is tasked with determining how the existing facility will be integrated with the new one, including determining flow path logistics and designing the work flow.

The engineering effort is led by Jeffrey Whitton '79, (ME). In his role, Whitton determines priorities, tasks and deliverables. Also working in the engineering group are Gabriel Ockrin '08 (ME), Doug VonBorstel '89 (ME) and Derrick Lucey, the first McNair Scholar to receive a Ph.D. (chemistry, from the University of Buffalo).

"This is a very unique team," Marsh says. "We've brought together a variety of different expertise and we've created a really good group dynamic."

"If we can do some good here, that benefit will last 40 years and really impact Massena's future," VonBorstel points out. "It feels really good to be a part of that."