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Rocks Roads Ripples N'At: 

Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 27 Apr 2015 8:25 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee

    The 4225’ rock-bored Squirrel Hill Tunnel in the east end of Pittsburgh, PA is key element of I-376, the primary travel corridor from the East to and from the city. Although the tunnel has held up well over time, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) determined that many of the structural, electrical, ventilation, control, and fire life safety systems were in need of repair or replacement.

    In 2010, PennDOT hired Gannett Fleming, Inc. to prepare rehabilitation contract documents for the 60+ year old tunnel. The resulting design modernized most of the existing tunnel systems to current AASHTO and National Fire Protection Association 502 “Standards for Road Tunnels, Bridges, and Other Limited Access Highways”. This construction involved full retrofit of multiple tunnel structural systems, upgrade of the fire life safety system, rehabilitation of the ventilation system (including removal of the tunnel slab ceiling), full replacement of the electrical and lighting systems, and other specialized upgrades.

    This project had many challenges, specifically addressing aging structural systems, fire/life safety systems, the removal of the tunnel ceiling throughout the tunnel’s entire length, slab replacement retrofit of the “hidden bridge” at the West Portal of the tunnel, upgrade of the tunnel electrical systems, and other structural/architectural repairs required to extend the service of the tunnel. Much of the construction was performed during night-time, single lane closures and limited weekend shut-downs, adding more complexity to an already challenging project.

    Gannett Fleming, Inc., operating out of its Pittsburgh, PA, office, was the prime consulting engineer on a team with URS Corp. and Tri State Design and Development. The project contractors were Wash Construction Corp., Sargent Electric, Independence Excavation, and W.G. Tomko.

  • 20 Apr 2015 8:21 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From Geoprofessional Business Association

    Silver Spring, MD:  Earth, Inc., a geotechnical-engineering firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, has completed a Geoprofessional Business Association (GBA) Peer Review, a rigorous, voluntary, quality-enhancement process.

    “Participation in GBA Peer Review demonstrates a firm’s commitment to improving quality,” said GBA President Steven D. Thorne, P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE. "While we cannot say that Peer-Reviewed firms are better than their competitors, we can say that a firm is better for having completed a Peer Review.”

    Through GBA Peer Review, client representatives, employees, and a team of expert peers evaluate policies affecting the quality of a firm’s services and the effectiveness with which the firm implements those policies. The Peer-Review team identifies opportunities for improvement and suggests specific actions the firm can apply to turn opportunities into achievement.

    “GBA Peer Review is not for the faint of heart,” said GBA Executive Vice President John P. Bachner. “A firm’s leadership has to be so committed to providing quality to its clients and employees that it’s willing to give unfettered access to outsiders who provide a ‘warts-and-all’ evaluation. Frankly, relatively few firms are willing to do that. It takes a genuine commitment to professional ideals and not just a little bit of courage.”

    Established in 1983, Earth, Inc. employs ten people at its office in Pittsburgh, PA. The firm provides geotechnical-engineering and construction-materials engineering and testing (CoMET) services.

    According to Earth, Inc. CEO Michael J. “Mike” Sydlik, P.E., “We’ve gained some excellent insights as a result of the Peer Review. We’re extremely pleased by the extent of the positive findings, and, just as we hoped, the Peer-Review Team identified several opportunities for improvement, and gave us some marvelous suggestions for making the firm even better. We’re already looking forward to our next Peer Review.”

    For more information about Earth, Inc., visit its website (http://www.earthincorp.comor contact Mr. Sydlik by telephone (412-327-1749) or e-mail (

    GBA established Peer Review in 1977, with the assistance of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). In October 1999, celebrating its 125th anniversary, McGraw-Hill’s Engineering News-Record magazine lauded GBA Peer Review as one of the 125 most significant construction-industry innovations of the prior 125 years. Peer Review was the only association program cited.

    More information about GBA and its Peer Review program is available at, or by contacting the group by e-mail ( or telephone (301/565-2733).

  • 16 Apr 2015 8:04 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By ASCE Awards Committe and ASCE Blog Editor

    Chuck DiPietro is the 2014 recipient of the ASCE-Pittsburgh Service-to-People Award.  After 46 years on the job, Mr. DiPietro has recently retired as the Transportation Planning Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) and as the Vice President of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation. “Chuck’s service throughout 46 years epitomized Service to the People,” says colleague, Daniel Cessna, from PennDOT. “It was his entire focus, and he lived it daily.”  From August 2000 to November 2001, Mr. DiPietro also served as Acting Executive Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and Acting President and CEO of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation.

    Mr. DiPietro was responsible for the $6.8 million annual planning work program for our ten-county Metropolitan Planning Organization. The program activities include long-range transportation planning, short-range transportation programming, data systems and modeling, transportation corridor and sub-area studies, and operation of the regional ridesharing program, CommuteInfo.

    Mr. DiPietro was also responsible for directing the year-long development process for the region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), currently a $4.25 billion program of investments to upgrade Southwestern Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure. The TIP is a key responsibility of the Transportation Director, and requires a skillful balancing of federal, state and local funding coordinated closely with SPC’s many partner organizations.

    “Chuck DiPietro dedicated 46 years of public service to advancing transportation programs and projects that have kept the Pittsburgh region vibrant and sustainable,” says Dominic D’Andrea from SPC.

    “His [service] was not easy service,” adds Cessna, “It required thoughtful, diligent, and tactful approaches to make it all come together.” 

    Mr. DiPietro has been recognized since the early 1970’s for his leadership in fostering broad public involvement in regional transportation planning decisions. He has actively served on numerous boards including both the Airport Corridor Transportation Association and the Oakland Transportation Association since their establishment in the 1990’s. He has also led SPC's involvement in the formation of Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities Program in 1995 as the first coordinator of this US DOE national initiative to promote and advance alternate fuel vehicles and supporting infrastructure.

    “Working and collaborating with Chuck for over 12 years, I appreciated his ability to capture every detail from a conversation or situation – and be able to put that information to good use in his work and in helping others to grow in their work,” Cessna says. “And I enjoyed kidding Chuck, he was a good sport, with a great sense of humor.  But, he was the consummate professional, never losing his cool and always considering every angle of a situation, carefully choosing his words as to never offend, and always enlighten.”

    “When I think about working with Chuck DiPietro, I think of these words: integrity, diplomacy, professionalism, and kindness,” says D’Andrea. “It was truly an honor to work with him.”

    Chuck DiPietro and his wife, Kathleen DiPietro, are the parents of five children and reside in Allegheny County’s Hampton Township.

  • 13 Apr 2015 9:57 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE Awards Committee

    Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. is the 2014 recipient of the ASCE-PGH Employer Recognition Award.  More than 25 years ago, CEC was founded in Pittsburgh by four individuals who set out to create a firm that clients would look to when they had tough challenges. The founders also were determined to create a company where employees would want to spend their entire careers: a place where they could achieve their professional goals and a place they enjoyed coming to every day. CEC has since grown to 19 offices and more than 650 employees nationwide.

    CEC is an employee-owned firm, allowing staff to share in the company success through stock ownership. The company’s continuing growth reflects client confidence in the work of CEC employees, who are guided by three main business principles: Senior Leadership, Integrated Services, and Personal Business Relationships. And while the firm has experienced tremendous growth, there has remained a strong commitment to maintain a small-firm culture.

    One of the firm’s Core Values is to provide opportunities for professional growth. Employees are encouraged to be proactive in their professional development and to continuously engage in advanced education courses and seminars. To facilitate this, CEC has instituted the Do-Manage-Market-Lead employee career path model, which empowers employees by providing an outline of the skill sets and behavioral qualities needed to advance to the next level. Additionally, in 2014, CEC launched their annual Awards for Innovation program, which recognizes and celebrates employees who turn innovative ideas into reality and make a positive impact on the firm, the industries served, and/or the core practices. The award identifies and recognizes excellence in creating new products and services, and provides a learning vehicle for all CEC employees.

    The management of CEC also recently instituted a firm-wide commitment to employee wellness.  This commitment encourages staff and their families to better manage their care and make healthy lifestyle choices. The CECFit wellness program emerged from this commitment, which incorporates regular lunch and learn sessions, voluntary health screenings, email blasts and coordinated events to increase health awareness and provide tools and support.

    CECFit Team at the Steelers 5K Run

    Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) provides comprehensive industry-focused consulting services that advance our clients’ strategic business objectives. CEC is recognized for providing innovative design solutions and integrated expertise in the primary practice areas of civil engineering, ecological sciences, environmental engineering and sciences, waste management and water resources. 

  • 02 Apr 2015 11:00 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    From ASCE National Government Relations

    ASCE held its 15th Legislative Fly-In this week in Washington, DC, bringing 200 ASCE members from 46 states and the District of Columbia together to learn about issues affecting the civil engineering profession and then share the civil engineers’ viewpoint on those issues with their elected officials on Capitol Hill.

    The program kicked off Tuesday afternoon with training sessions followed by a dinner.  At dinner, winners of the Outstanding Civil Engineering Advocate of the Year awards were recognized:  Darren Benoit of New Hampshire received the individual award, and the Louisiana Section received the group award.  The awards presentation was followed by a speech by Peter Rogoff, acting under secretary of transportation for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Rogoff thanked the attendees for traveling to Washington to share their expertise with lawmakers. In his remarks, he warned that 32 short-term extensions have caused local and state leaders to “lose their vision” to plan long-term projects, which are what America needs most to be ready for future population growth and demographic trends. He continued by saying the DOT is focused on working with Congress to increase investment in transportation infrastructure, warning that "if we don't change course, it's dismal."

    On Wednesday ASCE members first heard from Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who highlighted the need to fix the Highway Trust Fund, commenting that “No nation became great building its infrastructure nine months at a time.”  The group then headed to Capitol Hill to visit their United States senators and representatives, discussing key legislative issues including the Update, Promote, and Develop America's Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act, surface transportation authorization, and Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) implementation.

    ASCE concluded the Legislative Fly-In week with the Dream Big: Engineering Wonders of the World reception in the Cannon Caucus Room, which promoted the
    forthcoming IMAX film.

  • 30 Mar 2015 5:58 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE Awards Committee and ASCE-PGH Blog Editor

    Mr. Len Boselovic of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is the recipient of the 2014 ASCE-PGH Journalism Award for his excellent journalistic work covering various infrastructure challenges. “The problem with infrastructure is that it's taken for granted. Many consider it to be boring,” says Mr. Boselovic. “I think it's important to make more people aware of the crisis America is facing because we have not taken care of our roads, bridges, ports, lock and dams, water systems and other infrastructure.”

    Among his infrastructure articles is the outstanding four-part series “The P3 Dilemma,” about public-private partnerships (P3) and their role in infrastructure renewal.  With governments reluctant to raise taxes, public-private partnerships have emerged as a possible solution to acquire the estimated $3.6 trillion needed by 2020 for infrastructure rehabilitation and renewal. Mr. Boselovic’s series provided an in-depth exploration of P3 projects around the U.S., and the potential for P3 arrangements in Pennsylvania.

    The P3 concept gathers support from the widespread perception that the private sector is more efficient and imaginative than the public sector. For government officials, the temptations of big upfront payments and a shift of responsibility to the private sector have been difficult to resist. Meanwhile, some private investors have invested outside the U.S. in private roads and other traditional government functions, and now eye what they consider to be the under-served U.S. market.

    “Because no one likes to pay taxes, and most naturally assume the private sector is more efficient than government, P3s are being a looked at as a way to solve America's infrastructure problems,” says Mr. Boselovic. “But people need to know there are serious public policy and financial issues involved when major public assets are turned over to the private sector.”

    Thus, despite pressing infrastructure needs, the U.S. has been slow to adopt P3s. Several high profile projects that did not live up to the promises made by P3 advocates have given government officials pause. Nevertheless, considering massive funding shortfalls and an enduring reluctance to raise taxes, P3s are expected to play an increasing role in addressing America’s infrastructure needs. Mr. Boselovic’s investigation makes it clear that the challenge is aligning the private sector’s profit motive with the public sector’s obligation to public welfare.

    “The P3 Dilemma” appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 10th -13th, 2014. Reporting on this topic was no small feat. 

    The topic of private-public partnerships for infrastructure development and operation is particularly complex,” says Dr. Dave Dzombak, professor and head of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  “Len invested months of effort researching different kinds of P3 arrangements, and evaluated objectively what has worked and what has not.  His resulting four-part series was informative, balanced, and helpful in illuminating the complexity of P3.” 

    Since joining the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1993, Len Boselovic has covered many challenges of infrastructure renewal.  In 2012, he received the Pittsburgh Section Journalism Award for another excellent series on the state of U.S. inland waterway infrastructure, entitled “Locked and Dammed.” “Len's work has shed light on crucial infrastructure issues,” says Post-Gazette Projects Editor Lillian Thomas.  “His careful and extensive reporting allows him to write authoritatively about problems with infrastructure.”

    Through this extensive reporting, Mr. Boselovic increases public awareness on Pittsburgh's infrastructure issues. "Len immerses himself in the topics he writes about,” says Post- Gazette Business Editor, Brian Hyslop. “Rarely have I seen a reporter work so diligently to understand subjects of such complexity and significance, and relay that understanding to readers."

    Mr. Boselovic is a 1974 graduate of John Carroll University and received an MSJ degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1981. Other recognitions include being named a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting sponsored by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

  • 26 Mar 2015 10:00 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE Awards Committee and ASCE-PGH Blog Editor

    Angela Mayer, E.I.T. is the 2014 recipient of the ASCE-Pittsburgh Young Civil Engineer of the Year.  Ms. Mayer recently joined Williams Companies, Inc. as an Integrity Engineer II working in the Pittsburgh Office. When asked how it feels to be the Young Civil Engineer of the Year, “I feel an immense sense of pride,” Ms. Mayer says.  “I have dedicated a large amount of time to ACSE, especially the Younger Members Forum; it is a wonderful feeling to be recognized by your peers for your accomplishments.”

    Prior to joining Williams, Ms. Mayer worked in consulting for eight years as a Project Engineer. Her experience includes erosion and sedimentation control, land development, water resource and design engineering. She has experience in planning, design and bid document development, geotechnical, and value engineering, construction management, as well as assistance in forensic investigations.

    Ms. Mayer worked as a Project Manager on the Monongahela Aquatorium Redevelopment project where she led internal co-workers in the planning, design, demolition, bid process, and construction of the Aquatorium. “There was a considerable amount of coordination with the Monongahela community,” says Ms. Mayer.  “The redevelopment is located near the city’s downtown district and is utilized for many community gatherings.  I was really pleased with how the project was completed per the communities’ requests.”  She coordinated between the City of Monongahela and their funding providers, RACW, to ensure the project outcome suited the needs of the community. “The Aquatorium is such a unique project, not many communities have an amphitheater on the river!”

    Ms. Mayer also was a Project Manager for the Dark Hollow Recreation Facility, which was developed on a former industrial site in the community of Oakmont.  The Dark Hollow Recreation Facility was the first development where I was the Project Manager,” she says.  For this project, she was responsible to plan, execute, and finalize the project according to deadlines, client requirements, and budget. She facilitated communication between Edgewater Properties and the neighborhood of Oakmont to ensure the recreation facility met the needs of the Borough.  “At the end of the day, when the recreation facility was complete and I could physically stand on the baseball field and touch the concession stand, I had an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.”

    Others remark on Ms. Mayer’s dedication.  “I am honored to have been able to watch Angela grow through her involvement with ASCE and other partner organizations,” says colleague, Lauren Terpak.  “I am proud of all that she has accomplished in regards to both her dedicated participation within the ASCE organization and her ongoing career development.”

    Ms. Mayer’s success can be attributed to her enjoyment of learning.  “I am extremely grateful for my career in Civil Engineering, it is such a fantasizing occupation,” she says.  “Being an engineer one cannot be complacent; I love that I am constantly being challenged and applying my knowledge to my work.” 

    Ms. Mayer has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the West Virginia University.  She is a past ASCE Pittsburgh YMF President, and has been an active ASCE member since 2009.


  • 19 Mar 2015 8:20 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee and ASCE Blog Editor

    James H. Garrett, Jr., Ph.D., P.E. is the recipient of the 2014 ASCE-Pittsburgh Civil Engineer of the Year Award.  “I am extremely honored to have been selected for this award by the ASCE Pittsburgh Chapter,” says Dr. Garrett.  “I was a student of, worked with, and taught some of the former awardees.  The list of engineers selected in the past to receive this award is impressive and humbling, and I am grateful to have been selected to join them.”

    Dr. Garrett is the Thomas Lord Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and currently the Dean of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). However, he started his engineering career at CMU long before joining the faculty, as a student. “I got a fantastic education at Carnegie Mellon.  CMU formed my interdisciplinary approach to problem definition and solution. They honed my ability to think critically and to look at problems from a systems perspective,” he says. 

    Dr. Garrett has earned three Civil Engineering degrees at CMU: a BS in 1982, a MS in 1983, and a PhD in 1986. “Being department head of CEE and now Dean of the College of Engineering here at CMU was not something I would have predicted earlier in my career,” he says.  “I will say that it is exciting, rewarding and very challenging to serve the excellent students, faculty and staff as the dean of their college, and I greatly enjoy every day.”

    Other professors also remarked on Dr. Garrett’s long-standing leadership roles.

    “Jim Garrett has been a leader in professional service activities throughout his career, including when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon,” says colleague, Dr. Jeanne VanBriesen, professor at CMU CEE.  “When I was inducted into the Carnegie Mellon chapter of Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honor Society, several years after joining the faculty, I was surprised to see Jim Garrett’s name and signature among the very first in the chapter registry.  He was one of the founders of the chapter in 1982.”

    When colleagues speak about Dr. Garrett and his work, they refer to his commitment and passion.  “Jim is a very open and collaborative person, which, combined with his broad knowledge in and passion for civil engineering, makes him a great colleague with whom I have much enjoyed working,” Dr. VanBriesen says.

    Colleague, Dr. Irvine Oppenheim, professor at CMU CEE, also speaks about Dr. Garrett’s passion. “Everything Jim does professionally stems from his pride in being an engineer, and most especially a civil engineer,” says Dr. Oppenheim.  “He has devoted his career to raising the standing of the profession, the CEE Department at CMU, the engineering college at CMU, and CMU itself.”

    After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Garrett worked as a Project Engineer with Schlumberger Well Services in Houston, Texas from 1986-1987, and was an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1987-1990. Dr. Garrett joined the CMU Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty in 1990 and was promoted to Full Professor in 1996. He was appointed as Head of Civil and Environmental Engineering in June 2006 and led the department until December 2012. In January 2013 he was appointed as Dean of the College of Engineering.

    Dr. Garrett has been a Fellow of ASCE since 2009 and is a licensed professional engineer.  He holds two patents, and is the author of more than 250 technical publications. Throughout his career, Dr. Garrett’s research and teaching have been focused on bringing advanced computing and information technologies to bear on civil engineering problems. His research interests have included:

    •          The application of sensors and sensor systems to civil infrastructure condition assessments.
    •          Designing mobile hardware/software systems for field applications.
    •        Representations and processing strategies to support the usage of engineering codes, standards, and specifications.
    •          Understanding knowledge-based decision support systems.

    Since Dr. Garrett became the Dean of the College of Engineering, the college has created a new strategic plan, and launched a number of new initiatives in research such as advanced manufacturing, soft robotics, and smart infrastructure.  The college has also launched new initiatives in communications, faculty development and educational programs for innovation and entrepreneurship.

    When asked about his accomplishments, Dr. Garrett describes his pride for the next generation of engineers. “I am very proud of the many students I have advised or taught over the years,” Dr. Garrett says. “Actually, I feel this way about all alumni I meet from CMU, not just the ones I have taught.  When they come back to visit and tell me about the great diversity of projects they are working and the impact they are having, I am filled with pride for them and their accomplishments.”

    Dr. Garrett has another source of pride.  “I am most proud of my two children, both of whom graduated from CMU.”

  • 17 Mar 2015 8:45 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by ASCE-PGH Awards Committee

    31st St interchange w/ tight urban single point configuration and complexity in local tie-in pointsThrough careful planning, stakeholder coordination, and innovative design and construction techniques, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) upgrade of PA Route 28 (East Ohio Street) between Millvale and Chestnut Street in Pittsburgh is complete. With much help from the Federal Highway Administration, the City of Pittsburgh, the Borough of Millvale and the many stakeholders involved, PennDOT has invested $181 million toward making this section of PA Route 28 a top-notch transportation system.

    View of PA 28 towards downtown at completion of 31st St interchangeThe Route 28 corridor has been a valuable asset for travelers in the Pittsburgh community since the early 1800s. At one time, this major gateway supported a wooden plank road, a canal, a Belgian block street, streetcar traffic, railroads, trails and the paved state road. Through the combination of five construction contracts, the much needed capacity, safety and geometric improvements have been provided.

    PA Route 28 for many years has been a unique and major arterial gateway into the City of Pittsburgh while also serving as the local access for the smaller communities it traverses through. This particular section of PA Route 28 is constrained by the steep Troy Hill slope, Norfolk Southern and CSX railroad tracks, and the Allegheny River, with many other demanding features that may have led to this segment as the last to be upgraded.

    Innovative Florida-T design at 40th St, allowing continuous traffic flow along PA Route 28The project grade-separated this section of PA Route 28, providing the long-awaited limited access link between northeast Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh International Airport. Innovative techniques were incorporated through the design of a tight single point urban interchange at 31st Street and construction of a Florida-T interchange at 40th Street. Shifting of the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks along this project corridor was necessary to implement the PA Route 28 roadway improvements. The vertical clearance over the railroad at the 31st Street Bridge overpass was improved from 19 feet to 23 feet, allowing the transport of double-stacked cargo containers and improving the efficiency of freight rail transport through the project area.

    PennDOT, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) and the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) partnered on this project to perform stream removal from the local sanitary system. As a result, ALCOSAN was able to completely close two combined sewer overflow diversions. This, along with the considerable steps taken toward improving the safety of not only motorists  but also pedestrians and bicyclists along Route 28’s arterial urban context corridor, were the major factors leading toward this project being sustainable.

    The firms assisting PennDOT with successfully delivering this challenging project are: Michael Baker International, with assistance from The Markosky Engineering Group, Pittsburgh Engineering Consultants, Monaloh Basin Engineers, Cardno, and Ackenheil Engineers providing design and construction consultation services; CDR Maguire, with assistance from SAI Consulting Engineers, performing the construction management and construction inspection; and Power Contracting, Brayman Construction Corporation, Trumbull Corporation, and Carmen Paliotta Contracting as the lead contractors.

    PennDOT orchestrated a project that positively impacts peoples’ lives by not only providing a safer, more efficient and more sustainable transportation system, but also by improving multimodal connectivity, as well as appropriately addressing aesthetics. This project’s understanding of the communities’ needs and respect of the past, present and future desires makes a difference as society progresses towards a prosperous future.

    Innovative Florida-T design at 40th St, allowing continuous traffic flow along PA Route 28

  • 05 Mar 2015 9:09 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Djuna Gulliver

    Dr. Jeanne VanBriesen is the 2015 recipient of the ASCE Margaret Petersen Award for outstanding woman in environmental and water resources.  The Margaret Petersen award was established in 2014 to honor Margaret S. Petersen, P.E., a pioneer in hydraulics and water resources engineering.  It is awarded every year to outstanding female professionals in environmental and water resources.

    Dr. VanBriesen is a professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  For over 15 years, Dr. VanBriesen has been teaching environmental engineering and conducting research on environmental systems. Her most recent research includes assessing the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas processes.  She is also an expert on water sustainability, and has presented on the energy-water nexus at the Sustainability EXPOsed, Pittsburgh. She is the 2015 winner of the Carnegie Science Environmental Award for her outstanding science and technology achievements in Pittsburgh.

    Jeanne demonstrates a passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of engineers.  She has given numerous lectures on education, and is active in various educational outreach programs. Jeanne took some time to discuss being an environmental engineering professor in Pittsburgh:

    What does it mean to you to win the Margaret Petersen Award?

    I am particularly honored to be selected for an award named for Margaret Petersen.  Margaret Petersen became an engineer in a time when engineers were expanding their work into large-scale water resource challenges. She contributed to projects on the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, focused on flood control and water provision, and she wrote the book on River Engineering (1986). She was an engineering professor for almost two decades, known for her practical focus and her mentorship of students. To hear Margaret’s students talk about her influence on their professional and personal lives is deeply moving. It is impossible to say if her greatest influence was through her engineering work or through her investment in her students. To me, she embodies success: to touch the future through professional activities in engineering and personal commitment to the growth and development of young engineers. I aspire to have an impact like Margaret, and I hope my work and my life demonstrate my dedication to following her path.  

    Why is research in environmental systems important to you?

    Environmental systems sustain us all. It is important that we continually deepen our understanding of how natural and engineered water systems interact to enable human society.

    Why is teaching/advising the next generation of environmental engineers important to you?

    It is only through the work of current and future generations of environmental engineers working together that we will solve the toughest problems. New engineers continually bring new ideas and approaches. It is a privilege to work with bright new thinkers who want to change the world.

    Is mentoring future female engineers and researchers important to you?

    Mentoring engineers of both genders is important to me. There continue to be challenges that are unique to underrepresented groups in our field, but there are many professional challenges that we all have in common. Senior engineers have an obligation to share what we’ve learned from experience with all our students and younger colleagues.  

    What accomplishments are you most proud of?

    My greatest contribution to our field has been through the training of my students and mentorship of my junior colleagues, with a focus on increasing the diversity of our profession. I have advised or co-advised 15 Ph.D. mentees to completion, 12 of whom were women. These students (now colleagues) have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, consulting, and public service. I have advised 26 MS degree students (16 women), and 20 undergraduate research students (13 women), many of whom have worked with me alongside my Ph.D. students, providing the opportunity for these younger students to learn to do research, and for my Ph.D. students to learn to mentor.

    What advice would you give to young engineers?

    Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and think of new ways to solve old problems. Dream big about how your work will change the world.  

    What do you enjoy most about being a Pittsburgh engineering professor?

    Pittsburgh is a terrific place to be a water engineer. We have incredible water resources here, and we have many water challenges. Working as an engineering professor here enables me to study unique water systems and to use our water infrastructure challenges as a motivator for student research projects.

    Jeanne VanBriesen holds a B.S. in Education from Northwestern University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University.  She is also a licensed professional, and currently the director of CMU's Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems, and a U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board member.

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