About 5,200 miles outside the Papa Del’s delivery zone but still an Illini at heart, Erwin Kohler checks in from a continent away, in central Chile:
“I was in Illinois between 2000 and 2005. Got my Ph.D. in the Civil Engineering Department, and stayed a few months as a post-doctoral fellow, just before the Illinois Center for Transportation got started at ATREL, in Rantoul.
“I was the first student working with the big yellow machine that was bought by the university to conduct accelerated pavement testing. My research results were used by IDOT when they built the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway, the biggest and most complicated highway project ever in the Chicago area.
“I went to work at the University of California as a researcher in pavement engineering, and eventually my wife and I decided to move back home to Chile. I am proud to have been at the top graduate civil engineering program in the U.S. and to have gone to the second-best at the time.
“I now have my own engineering firm, doing consulting projects in many countries. I’m staying in touch closely with professors who are still there, and we see each other at big conferences around the world, and every now and then get consulting jobs together. In my area of work, the UIUC has a tremendous reputation.
“Places of fond memories are ATREL, the Advanced Transportation Research and Engineering Lab in Rantoul, and the engineering quad and the sun clock, where my kids often waited for me when they went with my wife to pick me up from Newmark Lab.
“As a family, we went full circle regarding the Illinois weather. We feared it when we were first getting there. But we soon liked it because it was different to what we were used to in central Chile, and therefore exciting.
“Then we got tired of cold winter and of having a very short springtime. By the time we moved to California, we were happy to move to a place with a familiar four-season milder weather.”