2015 Rising Stars in Civil + Structural Engineering


    This fourth annual Rising Stars in Civil Engineering and Rising Stars in Structural Engineering recognizes 20 professionals, 40 years old or younger, working in the United States, who have shown exceptional technical capability, leadership ability, effective teaching or research, or public service benefiting the civil engineering profession, their employers, project owners, and society. Civil + Structural Engineer editors selected the engineers highlighted on the following pages (in alphabetical order) from an impressive group of nominees from both the private and public sectors. Limited space allows only a brief summary of each Rising Star’s many accomplishments, projects, and activities to date.

    Rising Stars in Civil Engineering

    Alejandro Angel, Ph.D., P.E., PTOE, ENV SP,(age 39) principal/vice president, Psomas, Tucson, Ariz., oversees all of Psomas’ engineering teams in Arizona and San Diego and has been involved in the design of some of the firm’s largest highway and roadway projects. His expertise includes a combination of roadway and traffic engineering design. Angel is the youngest-ever principal at Psomas. He founded the firm’s Traffic Engineering team and, in addition to leading the traffic operations, he travels to Psomas offices across the Western U.S. to conduct traffic engineering training for employees. As an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arizona he helped create and taught parts of an engineering course titled, Integrated Highway Bridge Design Using LRFD Methodology. Angel was the transportation leader of a pro-bono team in charge of circulation and landscaping enhancements for the historic Iron Horse Neighborhood Improvement Plan in downtown Tucson.

    Bree Carrico, P.E., (age 35) water resources engineer, ARCADIS U.S., Inc., Austin, Texas, has shown outstanding public service in her work for municipal water utilities across the U.S. and internationally. In her early consulting years in Denver, she primarily worked on projects to assist small public water systems improve their technical, managerial, and financial capacity. She assessed and trained more than 50 water utility operators and managers. In 2009, she relocated with Malcom Pirnie to Muscat, Oman, for nine months, concurrently running a project and helping establish the company’s first office in Muscat. Since 2010, she has worked out of the Austin, Texas, office of ARCADIS, managing and leading a variety of projects related to water treatment plant assessments and expansions, water quality challenges, watershed protection planning, and water resources evaluations. She has been involved with Water for People since 2005, including volunteering in Honduras to assist with water supply and treatment projects (shown in photo).

    Christi Fu, P.E., LEED AP, ENV SP, (age 34) deputy West Region manager, Contract Solutions, ARCADIS U.S., Inc., Los Angeles, has more than 10 years of experience in the construction and project management field, including evaluation and resolution of high-volume, high-dollar, complex claims and disputes. Since September 2013, Fu has been a part of the construction management team at Port of Long Beach’s Middle Harbor Redevelopment program. The program consists of eight separate construction projects totaling $1.8 billion. In her current role, Fu is responsible for managing contracts with one of ARCADIS’ biggest clients. She has been an active ASCE member and officer and served as a co-trainer for its Project Management and Claims Management workshop. She is also an active member of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, USGBC, and CMAA. For the last eight years, Fu has been a mentor with the ACE Mentor Program.

    Capt. Naseem Ghandour, EIT, CGC, (age 34) engineering flight, deputy commander, 554th Red Horse Squadron, U.S. Air Force, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, has led a 14-person design team for 10 facility and three heavy horizontal projects, while also acting as a project engineer overseeing five construction projects. He redesigned the roof structural system for troop construction projects on Guam, saving $239,000 and 37 weeks of construction over six projects and paving the way to more than $400,000 in savings for three upcoming building projects. While at McConnell Air Force Base from 2010 to 2013, Captain Ghandour developed several base projects, including a $582,000 building renovation, a $4 million fitness project, and a $68 million runway renovation. During a 2013 deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, he managed a construction program of 34 projects. A member of the Society of American Military Engineers, he has organized a tour to educate professional engineering leaders, conducted engineering presentations to local schools, and provided mentoring for upcoming engineers.

    James Newberry, P.E., CCM, TCS, (age 30) operations support branch manager, Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), Phoenix, has distinguished himself in the areas of construction management, owner’s representation, teaching, and public service. Newberry has served as owner’s representative and project manager/construction manager for multiple municipalities in Arizona. Gilbert and Maricopa, Ariz., specifically requested him to lead their complex, controversial, or difficult projects. In his current position, Newberry has helped to consolidate and bring much needed leadership to several previously disjointed and struggling programs at MCDOT. He teaches several modules of the CMAA Certified Construction Manager certification exam preparation course and also teaches construction and scheduling for ASCE’s twice yearly professional engineer exam study course. He serves on the Volunteers Committee for the 2015 American Public Works Association (APWA) International Congress and Exposition and was selected by APWA National to participate in its Emerging Leaders Academy, one of only 12 participants chosen nationwide for the 2015 class.

    Carl P. O’Brien, P.E., P.P., C.M.E., C.P.W.M., (age 38) senior project manager, Maser Consulting P.A., Red Bank, N.J., has been providing municipal and civil engineering services for more than 15 years in more than 50 municipalities. He is also the lead engineer for the Sports and Recreation Division for the firm and has designed recreational facilities and athletic complexes for municipalities, boards of education, counties, colleges, and high-profile universities. O’Brien’s expertise includes design and construction oversight of pedestrian, barrier-free, and bicycle realms; downtown streetscape and beautification improvements; infrastructure upgrades and maintenance programs; complete road reconstructions, including utility relocations; and drainage and sanitary sewer improvement projects. As borough engineer, planning board engineer, and zoning board engineer for the Borough of Roselle, N.J., he worked tirelessly with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Irene, assisting with the clean-up and planning alternate routes that enabled residents to navigate from one side of the borough to the other.

    Matthew Schnobrich, P.E., (age 36) principal engineer/director of remediation, ARCADIS U.S., Inc., Lexington, Ky., is responsible for providing direction for remediation strategy development and providing oversight and best practice management of technology selection, design, and implementation for remediation services. He and his team, with more than 500 members, are directly involved in supporting regulatory engagement on cleanup efforts and promoting the identification of green and sustainable remediation practices to minimize hazardous waste handling, transport, and impact on communities. Schnobrich has published six peer-reviewed journal articles (including the 2011 ASCE Greeley Award winner), presented on more than 20 environmental remediation topics at multiple industry-wide conferences, and is a member of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council group for Remediation Management of Complex Sites. During the first four years of his tenure with ARCADIS, he balanced a near full-time ARCADIS workload with intensive athletic training, representing the U.S. at three consecutive World Rowing Championships and winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.

    Helga Sommer, P.E., (age 36) program manager, AECOM, Coral Gables, Fla., fluent in English, German, Portuguese, and Spanish, has more than 16 years of engineering consulting experience, encompassing all aspects of program and project management, planning, design, and construction, including seaport cargo and cruise facilities. She is the day-to-day lead at the Port of Miami for AECOM’s program management contract, involved in all aspects of the port’s $1 billion capital development initiative. She has managed interdisciplinary coordination to develop plans, specifications, cost estimates, schedules, permits, operation plans, constructability reviews, and value engineering, as well as interagency/client/stakeholder coordination. Sommer has also participated in and led construction management, bidding assistance, construction support, and engineering during construction services, including taking part in water resources planning projects such as hydrologic assessments, modeling, operations, data collection and review, and permitting. She also has assumed a dynamic role with Water For People.

    Aaron Swenson, P.E., (age 37) project manager, Forsgren Associates, Rexburg, Idaho, has made a name for himself solving infrastructure problems for cash-strapped communities throughout rural Idaho. He has been successful doing more with less — whether it be innovative pavement management or creative ideas for stormwater management and bridge replacement — and bringing federal dollars to Eastern Idaho with grants totaling nearly $25 million in seven years. The highlight of Swenson’s career so far has been the A2 highway project in Clark County, Idaho, a critical link and emergency evacuation route. He brought disparate stakeholders together and prepared proposals that eventually led to funding. Swenson has been a mentor for Engineers Without Borders for Utah State students working in South America. He has been involved for many years in local groups, including Eastern Idaho Counties Highway Organization, Madison Jefferson Transportation Committee, and nearly a dozen Technical Advisory Committees for transportation planning projects in rural communities.

    Katie Zehnder, P.E., PTOE, AICP, (age 38) vice president and Ohio officer leader, HNTB Corporation, Columbus, Ohio, leads HNTB’s Ohio practice and oversees 41 staff in the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati offices. She is responsible for all aspects of the operation and is at the heart of the transportation program and the firm’s largest and most complex transportation projects. Zehnder has been responsible for the quality delivery of final design plans on numerous significant projects, including the $300 million Opportunity Corridor in Cleveland; $287 million Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge Design-Build Procurement (as part of the Walsh Construction Team); $250 million LUC-75/475 Systems Interchange in Toledo, Ohio; $230 million MOT-75 Elevated Downtown Interchange in Dayton, Ohio; and $200 million I-270/SR 315/US 23 Systems Interchange in Columbus. Her community involvement activities include Junior League (Cleveland and Columbus), STEM education volunteer, Leadership Columbus, Habitat for Humanity (budget mentor), and Tax Assistance Program certified tax preparer volunteer.

    Rising Stars in Structural Engineering

    Michael Baer, P.E., LEED AP, (age 40) Building Structures Group manager, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants, Cary, N.C., has more than 17 years of experience and has worked on almost 200 projects in the seven years he has been at Mulkey, providing structural design for high-rises, office buildings, multi-family, and mixed-use facilities, including many challenging projects in high wind and seismic areas. In 2014, two of Baer’s projects received ACEC of North Carolina Engineering Excellence Awards. In 2011, he won the ACEC-NC Engineering Excellence award for structural engineering of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte. As a group manager, Baer continually invests in the next generation of structural engineers, supervising employees at Mulkey’s Charlotte and Raleigh offices. He maintains active membership in CREW Charlotte, American Institute of Architects, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, and National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

    Fernando Frontera, S.E., LEED AP, (age 32) associate, Baldridge & Associates Structural Engineering, Honolulu, joined the firm in 2006 as structural designer, working in high seismic regions such as Hawaii, Guam, and India. With an interest in blast and antiterrorism design, Frontera studied the principals of design under an experienced engineer and eventually developed his own spreadsheets to perform blast analysis on his first blast hardening project in 2009. Since then, he has further developed his expertise by independent study, and formal blast training courses. He is now managing blast hardening and antiterrorism projects at BASE, such as the $70 million Joint Traffic Management Center in Honolulu. He was one of the first employees at BASE to become a LEED Accredited Professional. Once the mentee, Frontera is now the mentor and is recognized by colleagues as a leader. He is currently the president of the Structural Engineers Association of Hawaii and has been a catalyst of change in the organization.

    Jacob H. Gonzalez, P.E., (age 39) principal/director of Parking Services, Walter P Moore, Houston, is the youngest director at the firm, having grown the Parking Group by 20 percent and doubled his new business billings since 2012. He has developed diverse expertise, including design team project management of parking facilities, parking functional design, parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS), existing facility improvements, parking studies, due diligence reports, parking count and guidance systems, signage/pavement markings, and master planning. Gonzalez managed the largest PARCS replacement in the world at the Texas Medical Center. Internally at Walter P Moore, he is involved in many firm-building committees and initiatives, assisting with strategic planning efforts as the sole representative for the Parking Group and for the 440-person firm as a whole. Among other projects, Gonzalez was the design team project manager for the Texas Medical Center Garage 19, an eight-level true-transit garage that houses 1,800 cars, ground floor retail space, and two transit-area lobbies.

    Elizabeth D. Marcantonio-Hartney, P.E., (age 34) project manager, AECOM, New York, has more than eight years of experience that includes the Ennery Bridge in Haiti (a USAID-funded project recognized by ACEC-New York Engineering Excellence Awards), Marine Transfer Stations for the NYC Department of Sanitation, and the Environmental Impact Statement for the Tappan Zee Bridge I-287 Corridor Expansion. Currently, she represents AECOM at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where for the last two-plus years she has been running large- and small-scale capital and operating projects. A significant amount of her time has been guiding development of a 10-acre undeveloped “mountain” for use as a staging area to support a $1 billion construction initiative at LaGuardia Airport, which will create a new central terminal building. She regularly volunteers to help promote engineering with students and recent college graduates. She has presented to inner city children as part of “A Day in the Life of an Engineer” program.

    Jindrich Potucek, P.E., (age 30) bridge engineer, Finley Engineering Group, Inc., Tallahassee, Fla., has worked on some of the most complex bridges currently under design. He has five years of experience in design and construction engineering for bridge types including cable-stayed and segmental. Jindrich has a solid academic and research background. He received his bachelor’s degree from Czech Technical University of Prague and his master’s degree from Europe’s top civil engineering university, the Ecole des Ponts ParisTech in Paris. At Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Jindrich studied bridge design under internationally recognized complex bridge designer, Jacques Combault, who is also technical director at Finley Engineering Group, Inc. Jindrich has worked on bridge engineering for significant structures in Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Florida, and Israel. During his time at Finley, Jindrich has demonstrated his leadership capabilities by overseeing the hiring of interns and supporting entry-level bridge designers and CADD technicians.

    Rising Stars in Structural Engineering

    Josh Reynolds, S.E., (age 31) senior associate, Miyamoto International, Inc., Santa Ana, Calif., has taken a leadership role on several internal initiatives that have changed the way projects are tracked and proposals are structured. He spearheaded an initiative to develop a “Project Life Form” that tracks a project from award to completion and captures data and project information key to developing project profiles and case studies while assisting with teaming and providing financial information for future use. In 2006, Reynolds started an internal resource library for the engineers at Miyamoto. This library grew into a comprehensive archive containing more than 20,000 reference materials, specifications, codes, standards, engineering tools, typical details, prototypical drawings, company design standards, and templates. Each month, a newsletter is distributed to the engineers that keeps them updated on new code, upcoming training events, and research papers that are specific to the structural engineering field. Reynolds has been selected to open a new office in San Jose, Calif.

    Jared P. Stewart, P.E., S.E. 1, CDT, (age 39) senior structural engineer, ARCADIS U.S., Inc., Tampa, Fla., is intimately familiar with the intricate and often competing issues involved in providing optimal design solutions for clients’ needs. He adeptly navigates between immersion in the details of the design work he oversees and the larger, overarching issues that must be constantly monitored by managers. His vast depth of knowledge allows him to rapidly assess a project’s structural design needs, but as importantly, he recognizes potential impediments that must be addressed and the necessary points of communication and coordination that will be needed to ensure project success. He continues to leverage this ability on behalf of municipal clients as well as industrial clients in the oil and gas sector. Steward sees the cultivation and stewardship of junior talent as one of his most important roles, and he consistently goes above and beyond to provide mentorship and support to all levels of staff.

    Aaron Stover, P.E., S.E., (age 39) project manager, Michael Baker International, Louisville, Ky., has led the engineering effort for numerous large, complex, and signature bridges throughout the Ohio Valley. Among his accomplishments are the preliminary design for a new cable stay interstate bridge and approaches over the Ohio River in downtown Louisville. He also was a major contributor to the Kentucky and Indiana transportation agencies during preparation of design-build construction procurement documents. His assistance is ongoing as the lead design review engineer and technical advisor for this project. In addition, Stover assisted the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet with evaluating an adjacent five-span, 2,498-foot-long truss on I-65, providing recommendations to extend its useful life and accommodate new traffic patterns. Under Stover’s leadership, a team of Baker engineers developed an innovative and time- and cost-saving approach to replace the US 421 bridge between Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind. — resulting in the Design Build team constructing the new truss on temporary piers and sliding it laterally onto the strengthened existing piers, making it the longest bridge slide in North America.

    Sam Wilke, P.E., (age 33) Structural Division manager, Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., Fargo, N.D., is responsible for leading numerous structural engineering projects as well as the firm’s structural engineering team, which experienced 20 percent growth in personnel in 2014. He is experienced in three broad-based engineering sectors, including building services, heavy industrial, and forensic investigations. Two of Wilke’s projects received major awards in the state. The Red River High School Performance Hall Addition in Grand Forks, N.D., received the Gold Star Award in 2013 from the North Dakota Ready Mix & Concrete Products Association. He also developed the conceptual layout and was lead structural designer for the Grand Forks Public Works Addition project in Grand Forks, N.D., which received the 2012 Project of the Year award from the ND Chapter of the American Public Works Association. In 2014, Wilke received North Dakota Society of Professional Engineers Young Engineer of the Year awards at the chapter and state levels.

    Sui (Charles) Yiu, P.E., (age 34) associate, Miyamoto International, Inc., Los Angeles, exhibits focused, client-driven thinking in the areas of project design and leadership. His passion to give back to the engineering community through student mentoring plays an important role in his life. He received the 2011 SEAOC Nabih Youssef Young Engineers award after presenting the seismic retrofit project for the AlaskaUSA Federal Credit Union. Based on experience, performance, and efficiency, Yiu prepared a seismic report for three retrofit options: base isolation, buckling restrained braced frame, and special concentrically braced frame. Yiu facilitates a weekly scheduling meeting with all engineers and the CAD manager to discuss availability and need for support to balance everyone’s workload. He also coordinates his Los Angeles office workload with that of the other regional and national offices. He spearheaded an internal company mentor program and mentors a group of 20 high school students interested in engineering fields.