Intern’s Code Can Avoid Freezing Pipes

Intern’s Code Can Avoid Freezing Pipes

Keeping buried water pipes from freezing is a constant struggle in Alaska’s harsh winter conditions. One intern’s summer work will help water system designers avoid that dreaded winter threat.

Trisha Jimmie, originally from Northway, currently resides in Anchorage while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Jimmie is one of ACEP’s utility student interns this summer. She is interning with Doyon Utilities to analyze a 2,200-foot, 10-inch, shallow burial water main project on Fort Wainwright.

“We’re happy to have Trisha on board helping us develop code that will allow us to forecast the risk of freezing. Her code will be used on this and many future projects as a critical design aid in similar applications,” said Nick Janssen, a utility engineer with DU and Jimmie’s mentor for the internship.

Jimmie is developing a coding script in Matlab to determine heat losses in an underground water distribution system. For the project, she is measuring soil properties, water temperature, climate conditions, surface topography and several other factors that can determine heat transfer.

The more time Jimmie spends on this project, the more she understands how each variable has its complexities.

“Heat loss depends on heat transfer, pipe diameter, location, etc. Each variable branches off to more components to consider, which can be collected data from graphs, research and engineering knowledge,” Jimmie said.

Jimmie has previously completed an internship through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program’s Summer Bridge component with BP.

Jimmie’s internship is funded through the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. For more information on the ACEP Utility Student Internship Program, visit or contact Heike Merkel.


Trisha Jimmie is writing a code for Doyon Utilities to help forecast heat loss from frozen ground. Photo courtesy of Trisha Jimmie.