Young Engineers of the Year


December 2010

Young Engineers of the Year


Although the men and women dubbed "2010 Young Engineer of the Year" by their state societies offer the profession a variety of skills and experience, one thing they share in common is their desire to help. Service is a key word for these committed young people, as they volunteer as officers for their chapter and state professional engineering societies, as well as for NSPE; lend their talents to STEM-related organizations such as MATHCOUNTS, Engineers Without Borders, and the Maryland Engineering Emergency Response Team; pitch in at humanitarian organizations such as The Salvation Army, Special Olympics, and Habitat for Humanity; and donate their time to local Boy and Eagle Scout troops, churches, and schools. These engineers' service mentality carries through to their jobs as well, helping them move quickly up the ladder at the companies they join. Congratulations from NSPE to all of this year's dedicated and talented young engineer winners!

NSPE Young Engineer of the Year
Eric West, P.E.
Eric West, P.E.36 years old
Firm principal
Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper Inc.
B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering
Texas Tech University

What are some of your favorite projects you worked on?
I got a chance to work on the new elementary school for my hometown, a small town in west Texas. We tore down the elementary school that I went to and built a new one in its place. That was fun to be a part of.

I'm currently working on a project where we are [constructing] a new junior high and high school building for the school that my kids go to. That's rewarding in the sense that I will be a part of designing the campus and building where they will be going to school in the future.

How do your kids feel about you working on their school?
They're excited. I don't know that they grasp what I'm doing. But they brag [about] their dad when people ask about [the school]. They say, "My dad's doing that." I don't know if they know what part of it I do or fully understand my job, but they love that idea.



Leslie Turner, P.E. 
Leslie Turner, P.E.35 years old
Senior project manager
Client service manager in training CDM
B.S. in environmental engineering
University of Central Florida

Turner has focused her engineering training on water and remediation issues, as well as improving engineer/client relations.

Describe the importance of good client/engineer relations in successfully completing a project.
As a member of the client service division of CDM, I understand the importance of the client/engineer relationship well. In order to have a successful project, I feel the most important objective is to listen to the client. Through this you will develop an understanding of their needs about a particular project. If you don't understand the outcome they desire, a project will not be successful in their eyes.  

What are the most important challenges you're facing as an environmental engineer in Florida?
One of the biggest challenges in Florida today is the need for alternative water supplies. One of the programs that I work on is the St. Johns River Water Management District's Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Testing Program. Through this program, we are pilot testing the feasibility of using ASR as an alternative water supply tool in central Florida. Results from the City of Sanford's water district ASR project indicate that ASR is feasible and can be used for demand management, especially when an alternative water supply source, such as surface water, is developed.

Jenny Bush, P.E.
Jenny Bush, P.E.30 years old
Transportation operations group leader, project manager, and roadway engineer
CH2M Hill Inc.
B.S. in civil engineering
Boise State University

Bush works on projects that thousands of people use every day: major roadways. She played a leading role in upgrading U.S. 95 through the state.

What about civil engineering inspires you to do your best every day?
I really look forward to working with clients, agencies, and communities on a daily basis. I enjoy trying to coordinate the different elements of a project and solving problems to make all parties happy. It is also great to be able to work on projects from concept through construction and see your hard work become reality.

What kind of responsibility do you feel, as a PE who works on road projects, to the drivers who use your roads daily?
I feel a responsibility to provide a safe way for everyone to get home, from motorists to bicyclists to pedestrians. It is our job as transportation engineers to bring the infrastructure up to current safety standards and make every design as safe as possible for all types of motorists.



Kelly Jo Hoffmann, P.E. 
Kelly Jo Hoffman, P.E.32 years old
Design engineer
Frauenhoffer and Associates P.C.
M.S. in structural engineering
B.S. in civil engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

How important is community service to the engineering community beyond your professional commitments?
The public or the community sees the benefits of each of our designs. However, engineers do more than design. We participate in professional societies. We volunteer our time and our skills. For the past four years I have [taken] an active role as an officer in my local chapter of the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers. Luckily, our executive board receives a lot of gratitude from our chapter members at every event planned. The local society here serves both the engineers and community.

What role do you think innovation and development of infrastructure play in an ever-advancing technical age?
Infrastructure itself is key to a successful future. The world will not continue to seem smaller and smaller without some means of connecting. The telegraph, telephone, and Internet were all milestones in achieving greater levels of communication. Boats, trains, cars, and planes have made this vast country able to have a diversified and well traveled population and [so ever-evolving businesses can stay competitive globally.] Technology and infrastructure are part of what keeps countries or communities thriving.

Joshua Nixon, P.E.
Joshua Nixon, P.E.32 years old
Project manager
Schneider Corp.
B.S. in civil engineering
Purdue University

Nixon graduated from Purdue in 2001 and stayed in West Lafayette, assisting on engineering efforts for two different kinds of parks—DePauw Nature Park and the Purdue Research Park of Southeast Indiana—and projects for Indiana National Guard facilities at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Describe the role you hope to play as an experienced engineer in West Lafayette, a place consistently producing quality undergrad and graduate engineering students.
I hope to assist in improving the infrastructure and quality of life around the Greater Lafayette area and on the Purdue University campus, as well as share my experiences in engineering and my educational and professional career path with current students at Purdue.

What role can PEs play in helping the Great Lakes region bounce back from the decline of manufacturing?
PEs can help in many different ways, such as developing new technologies or designing new infrastructure to help secure new industry.

Sean Miller, P.E.
Sean Miller, P.E.33 years old
Senior mechanical engineer/partner
MKEC Engineering Consultants Inc.
Southwestern College
B.S. in mechanical engineering
Wichita State University

Miller, who holds a LEED license and an MBA along with his PE, has specialized in educational, medical, and industrial facilities in his engineering work.

What's one thing you do as a mechanical engineer that surprises some of your coworkers?
I also have an MBA degree with an emphasis on management and marketing. I really enjoy the business side of engineering and the marketing side as well. I primarily put together my own PowerPoint proposals and marketing materials and tend to be interested in overall business goals of the company as well as tending to the engineering side.

How important is green building and engineering to the future?
Sustainability in building design is extremely important for the future. We must do our part to reduce energy costs and limit our intrusion on the environment. Taking advantage of natural forms of energy such as solar and wind that cannot be depleted should be a priority [in order to help] protect our other natural resources used for energy that can be depleted.



Justin Gray, P.E.
Justin Gray, P.E.33 years old
Water quality and planning manager
Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District
M.Eng in water resources and environmental engineering
B.S. in civil engineering
University of Louisville

Describe the level of importance PEs play in meeting standards like the Clean Water Act.
Licensed engineers are responsible for the direction of [planning, design, construction, water treatment, and monitoring] as well as ensuring positive results. Adapting to constantly changing regulatory requirements, political landscapes, and financial capabilities truly challenges the engineers and other professionals with whom I work, both in the public and private sectors. The industry requires that professional engineers learn to understand all of these pressures while maintaining the quality and cost effectiveness of the end product, whether it be a new sewer, water treatment facility, pump station, or existing asset maintenance and rehabilitation program. 

Give an example of a time it's benefitted you to be a PE and when the lack of a PE would have hindered your professional development.
Being a professional engineer is consistently beneficial to me. The license enabled my growth while in consulting and also qualified me for the challenging position that I currently hold with the sewer district in Louisville. Had I never obtained my license, most of the opportunities that I have been fortunate to pursue would never have been successful.



Joey Krefft, P.E.
Joey Krefft, P.E.34 years old
Project engineer
Aillet, Fenner, Jolly & McClelland Inc.
B.S. in marketing and B.S. in civil engineering
Louisiana State University

Krefft has been very active outside of school and work. One of his displays of service has been volunteering for MATHCOUNTS the previous five years, working as chapter president during 2008?09. He has also volunteered as a coach and judge during the last five EWeeks for the high school engineering olympics in his town of Shreveport.

What has been your favorite project thus far in your career?
Participating in the structural design of Louisiana State University's baseball venue, the new Alex Box Stadium; the upcoming 2011 season will be its third. The team won the national championship in its first season, 2009. As a two-time LSU grad and avid baseball fan, it was a great project with which to be associated, especially so early in my career.



Andrew Forbes, E.I.T.
Andrew Forbes, E.I.T.27 years old
Senior designer
D. S. Thaler & Associates Inc.
M.Eng in project management
University of Maryland
B.S. in civil engineering
Syracuse University

Discuss the importance of stormwater management in the Chesapeake Bay region as well as its importance for residents there.
Stormwater runoff is the delivery system that deposits nutrient overloads into the Chesapeake. Those nutrients are responsible for [the bay's] slow death. Maryland has become a national leader in stormwater management and has taken good first steps in the fight to protect the bay, but I believe much more needs to be done to correct the preexisting damage. Because the environmental consequences are rarely realized in the other states in the Chesapeake watershed, protecting the bay has historically been viewed as a state issue instead of a regional effort.

What do you feel you, as a PE, bring to the Maryland Defense Force and Maryland Engineering Emergency Response Team?
MDDF and MEERT provide a great opportunity for civilian engineers to play a role in protecting and serving the public in times of emergency or disaster. Engineers work very hard every day to ensure their designs and creations adhere to the strictest standards of public safety. But in an instant, a disaster could jeopardize the integrity of the things engineers design and construct. Being a part of MDDF and MEERT allows me to apply my knowledge and skills to help the public in their greatest time of need, and I am proud to be a part of both organizations.

Brian Hannon, P.E.
Brian Hannon, P.E.31 years old
Project engineer, Moore & Bruggink Consulting Engineers
B.S. in mechanical engineering and B.S. in business administration
University of Kansas

What do you find most exciting about your job?
We're taking biogas and reusing that to create heat and power and help offset the energy  needs of [a] wastewater treatment plant. That's cutting edge.

[In the wastewater treatment plant], the sludge that's produced is digested without oxygen. Biological organisms produce methane gas. We're going to capture that, clean it up, then use it in a combined heating and power cycle?to heat the digestion process. We're also going to use excess heat from that to heat a new building. It's a very fun project to work on.

What's your role on the project?
I'm a project engineer, working on the preliminary design all the way through actual construction, designing the construction documents and specifications. [I'm] also working on the construction engineering and inspection. I work for a small company, so I get to be involved with a lot of aspects that in a larger company I wouldn't get to do until [I had] 15?20 years of experience.

Steve Irons, P.E.
Steve Irons, P.E.31 years old
Project manager
Kirkham Michael
B.S. in civil engineering
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

What was your experience designing the Blair-Dana bike trail?
A bike trail has different design methodologies and manuals to consider than roadway projects. The layouts for horizontal and vertical curves have an effect on the maneuvering and safety of bicycles traveling at higher speeds.

Certain bike trails are designed for recreational use and will have a sharper curve to [enable people to] slow down and enjoy the surrounding scenery. The Blair-Dana trail project is a recreational trail and is being built so surrounding neighborhoods can enjoy a wooded area and future park. This is one of several trail projects that I have worked on.

Another unusual project that I have worked on was in Pella, Iowa. A record storm swept through in 2008?09, causing mass flooding. My firm was hired to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do work on the Lake Red Rock Reservoir, restoring the access roads to the outlet works, reestablishing safe fishing piers that were undermined by the flood waters, and replacing riprap that was scoured along the bank shores near a pedestrian bridge. There were many challenges, but with my problem-solving and engineering background, the project was successfully completed.

New Jersey
Jud Wible, E.I.T.
Jud Wible, E.I.T.33 years old
Structural engineer
Parsons Brinckerhoff
B.S. in physics
Allegheny College
M.S. in civil engineering
Rutgers University

What led you to study physics at a small liberal arts school? How did this flow into an engineering career?
The liberal arts background has really helped my career considerably; it taught me how to think critically and not settle on just the first or easy answer. It definitely taught me how to network and leverage my skill sets to help others. It taught me how to communicate, whether through presentations or on an interpersonal level. I wouldn't be even remotely close to where I am today in my career had I not had the liberal arts degree.

What has been your favorite project thus far in your career?
My favorite project thus far has been a short stint working on a capacity study for the Lincoln Tunnel Bus Route. We had the fortune to create solutions to the very complex problem of trying to get more traffic through the I-495 cut and into the Lincoln Tunnel. We surveyed the structures, threw out all sorts of ideas and thoughts and came up with suggestions to present to the client. It was great to try to piece together and solve a puzzle like that.

New York
Kelley Kircher, P.E.
Kelley Kircher, P.E.33 years old
Transportation project manager
Creighton Manning Engineering
B.S. in civil engineering
Clarkson University

When did you first take an interest in engineering?
My family used to vacation on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when I was growing up. The Bourne and Sagamore bridges connect mainland Massachusetts to the cape. I always marveled at the two bridges on our trips, and I was around 10 when I asked my parents what career would be responsible for creating a bridge. They responded, "civil engineering," and that's the first memory I have of engineering. I went on to become a civil engineer, although I don't design bridges!

You've done a lot of mentoring since graduating. Did you have a mentor when you were young?
I don't recall having an engineering mentor. I had many examples of good people in my life, including family and friends. They shaped my life by encouraging me to constantly try my best, challenge boundaries, and treat everyone with respect. I try to pass those qualities on to younger people and young engineers and lead by example. I enjoy being a mentor and would like to continue throughout my career.



North Carolina
Jennifer Bell, P.E.
Jennifer Bell, P.E.35 years old
Client service manager
CH2M Hill Inc.
B.S. in building construction, B.S. in civil engineering
M.S. in civil engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

Since earning three degrees, Bell has devoted herself to engineering in North Carolina, both on the local and state levels. For the past three years, she has served as public policy director for the Central Carolina Chapter of Professional Engineers of North Carolina, which follows her stint as the chapter president of the Western Carolina Chapter. On the state level, Bell is the public policy committee chair for PENC. She also assisted in the chartering of the Asheville section of the Society of Women Engineers.

Bell works in multiple roles at her current job, and specializes in disaster preparedness and government affairs, among other areas. She also provides modeling, analysis, and design of a variety of structures, including bridges, stadiums, and other municipal projects. In a previous job, she directed work crews for construction of temporary facilities for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.



North Dakota
Scott Zainhofsky, P.E.
Scott Zainhofsky, P.E.36 years old
Administrative transportation engineer
North Dakota Department of Transportation
B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering
University of North Dakota

When and why did you decide to get licensed?
I had two mentors who pushed me to become licensed, my father and Dr. Monte Phillips (1994?95 NSPE president). Every semester,  Dr. Phillips gave a lecture that started, "If you don't take your FE and PE exams as soon as you are eligible, you are a, a [expletive] fool!" He would then go on to explain for  most of an hour why it was so important to become licensed as soon as one met eligibility requirements.

Dr. Phillips' primary points were usually:

  • It will never be easier to pass those tests than your earliest opportunity;
  • The license provides security and flexibility of employment; and
  • It is a credential that no one can ever take away; you have to give it up by either your own actions or inactions.




Chris Carry, P.E.
Chris Carry, P.E.32 years old
Project manager/estimator
Miller Brothers Construction Inc.
B.S. in civil engineering
Ohio Northern University

What drove you to switch from consulting to construction?
This may sound slightly vain, but I couldn't sit at a desk and do design for the next 30 years.

When I was still in consulting, people would ask what I did for a living, and I would respond that I was an engineer. Invariably, they would state, "that's funny, you don't seem that boring." Talk about a stereotype. However, when I would go to work and be around other engineers, I realized there may be some truth to the statement.

My strong suit was communication and developing a relationship with clients. At 25 years old, I was going to marketing meetings because I could communicate what our company's abilities (at a 150-person company) were to nonengineering folks. The other part of the equation [was], I was not getting to see my projects in person. I think the combination of what I was good at plus what I wanted to do made construction the better choice for me, and it offered greater career growth.

Richard Schoedel, P.E.
Richard Schoedel, P.E.30 years old
Bridge engineer
Michael Baker Jr., Inc.
B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering
Pennsylvania State University

What project that you've worked on has been the most unusual?
Guys around here, they laugh. I'm like the bizarro world of structural engineering. Anything that doesn't fit the normal mold ends up here.

Recently I worked on this demonstration bridge?with Lehigh University. We designed [the] first-ever tubular flange girder bridge in the U.S. It was interesting to be the guy who designed that for the very first time.

How'd you get to be the unusual guy?
Once you've solved problems with a certain complexity, then you will be challenged with the next level of complexity. Now I regularly receive phone calls and e-mails from engineers across our company asking for advice on different types of [bridge] analysis.

When things go right, it feels great to be [that] guy. Other days it's tiring. It's like "Man, lemme just do that simple little bridge. That little overpass you drove over on your way to work today."

South Carolina
Michael Hood, P.E.
Michael Hood, P.E.28 years old
Project engineer
Parsons Brinckerhoff
B.S. in civil engineering
University of South Carolina

What part of your job do you love the most?
The people I work with. The engineering community has so many quality people that I  get the privilege of interacting with daily. Designing projects is interesting, I love numbers, and it's very rewarding to see a community benefit from a completed project, but the people  I work with every day make the engineering profession so great.

What do you find most interesting about your job?
What intrigues me most about the engineering profession is that it is based on science and mathematics, which are absolute, yet engineering has such an artistic element when dealing with projects in reality. Theory is a necessary foundation, but the actual practice of engineering involves so many different possible solutions in each unique project, and it's exciting to try to find the best possible solution that fits each unique project, while staying within the scope, schedule, and budget of each project.



South Dakota
Richard Marsh, P.E.
Richard Marsh, P.E.33 years old
Project manager
CETEC Engineering Services Inc.
B.S. in civil engineering
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

What do you find most exciting about your job?
I think it's the variety of the challenges that come at you associated with the different types of projects, whether it be roadway design projects or water infrastructure projects. I think that it's the variety that I find interesting, so there's never a repetitive monotonous problem.

You've done a lot of volunteer work and served with different societies. Why do you find that important?
I think it's important to have peer interaction. With the South Dakota Engineering Society, for example, I find it interesting to hear what other folks are doing and the challenges they face in the same industry. That's one of the main reasons I like to be involved. You get to hear and see the challenging things that other people are doing at the same time.



Joshua Holtgrewe, P.E.
Joshua Holtgrewe, P.E.27 years old
Project manager/electrical engineer
Allen & Hoshall Inc.
B.S. in electrical engineering
Christian Brothers University

What project that you've worked on has been the most challenging?
We've done biomedical industrial work where the technology was evolving faster than we could build the building. It felt like at some points during the project we were continually redesigning and revising the same area ad nauseam.

The easiest way to describe it is, you design an area, you provide the rough ins for power, water, gas, for a piece of equipment and then by the time the roof's over the building, that equipment is obsolete and you've got new equipment. So you have to change what you originally thought and adjust it on the fly.

Are there any particular strategies to do that?
You just try to make your design flexible enough on the front end. We knew going into it that there was quite a bit of uncertainty in some of it, so we had a lot of redundancy built into the design to handle unexpected changes.

Tammy Espinoza, P.E.
Tammy Espinoza, P.E.31 years old
Design engineer and associate
Hayden Consultants Inc.
B.S. in civil engineering
Texas A&M University

Which of your projects has been the most unusual?
One I'm working on is a major arterial that's adjacent to a downtown area. On the surface it doesn't sound that unusual, but it's in an older part of town so it has a really large 13-foot diameter, 80-year-old storm sewer system. There are a lot of utilities in the area that we're replacing.

We're trying to accommodate traffic, but it's also in a part of town that wants better pedestrian access and bicycle paths. So we're balancing a lot of different traffic, pedestrian,  and cyclist concerns as well as the utilities. It's a unique challenge to have those things in one project.

Fortunately, working at a small firm I've been able to experience a lot of these issues. It's helped me to be able to see the whole picture. I've worked on water and wastewater, paving design, and storm drain design. So [having seen] those before in projects, I understand how they might fit together.