Bay Area Engineering Firms, Projects Honored with ACEC California 2019 Engineering Excellence Awards

This month, the American Council of Engineering Companies of California (ACEC California) unveiled the 2019 recipients of its annual Engineering Excellence Awards. Projects were recognized for demonstrating an exceptional degree of innovation, complexity, achievement and value.

Honor Awards recipients in the Bay Area include:

*H3_BKF_SanPablo_Bike_Photo9BKF Engineers in Redwood City, CA, for its work on the San Pablo Avenue Bike and Pedestrian Improvements in Albany, CA. The successful partnership of BKF Engineers, City of Albany, Caltrans and AC Transit working in sync on the San Pablo Avenue Bike and Pedestrian Improvements Project has culminated in the construction of the two-way cycle track along San Pablo Avenue, between Dartmouth and Monroe Avenues. The cycle track is one of the most significant segments in the City of Albany Active Transportation Plan, adopted in 2012.

Cornerstone Structural Engineering Group, Inc. in San Francisco, CA, for its work on the Seismic Retrofit and Modernization of 990 Pacific Avenue Apartments in San Francisco, CA. The project included the voluntary seismic retrofit of the seismic retrofit and modernization of the 990 Pacific Avenue Public Housing Project. It included an efficient design that minimized construction impacts to the residents while allowing for the existing brittle lateral force resisting system to be replaced and strengthened with a ductile concrete shear wall system detailed to current standards, thus creating a safe environment for the community for years to come.

*H9_MNS_eBART_Ext_Photo7MNS Engineers, Inc.; PGH Wong Engineering, Inc.; Ghirardelli Associates; AECOM; Stacy and Witbeck/Amaroso/MRS in Santa Barbara, CA, for their collective work on the eBART to Antioch: East Contra Costa Extension in Antioch and Pittsburg, CA. BART contracted with the team to complete the eBART project which brought state-of-the art, environmentally friendly Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) rail service into East Contra Costa County between the Pittsburg/Bay Point Station and Antioch at half the cost of traditional BART. The project extended tracks ten miles east in the median of State Route 4 (SR-4), added two new stations, a parking lot, a train maintenance and operations facility pursuing LEED certification, providing much needed congestion relief on a busy commuter route.

Towill, Inc. in Concord, CA, for its work on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission San Andreas Pipeline No. 2 Replacement Study in San Bruno, CA. During the rehabilitation of the nearly 90-year-old San Andreas Pipeline No. 2, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and its lead engineering contractor worked with Towill, Inc. to survey the interior of approximately 1,800 feet of the pressurized pipeline in order to evaluate the feasibility a sliplining approach, which would involve installing a new smaller pipe inside of the existing water main. The project yielded a technically complex study that provided project designers with the information they needed to minimize impacts to the public and save time and money for the SFPUC.

*F3_Woodard_Curran_NorthValleyRecycled_Photo1Woodard & Curran in Walnut Creek, CA, for its work on the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program in Modesto and Turlock, CA. The North Valley Regional Recycled Water Program (NVRRWP) is a regional solution to water supply and reliability issues on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley. The NVRRWP provides recycled water from the Cities of Modesto and Turlock to the farmers and growers served by the Del Puerto Water District in portions of Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Merced Counties. The innovative program uses a newly modified pumping plant and a new pipeline connecting the cities’ treatment facilities to the Delta-Mendota canal (DMC), from which water can be delivered for beneficial use on agricultural lands and to South of Delta CVPIA-designated wildlife refuges.

Merit Award recipients in the Bay Area include:

HNTB Corporation in Oakland, CA, for its work on the Fairfield-Vacaville Train Station in Fairfield, CA. Located between the cities of Fairfield and Vacaville near Travis Air Force Base, the station provides more than 200,000 residents convenient access to the Capitol Corridor passenger rail service and the entire Mega region. The project is a key component of connectivity and congestion relief, addresses local safety and congestion issues, and is a significant element in a regional strategy to relieve I-80 congestion.

J2_LCC_Bart_Ramp_Photo_2LCC Engineering & Surveying, Inc. in Martinez, CA, for its work on the BART Downtown Access Ramp & Lighting, Project No. 4096 in Orinda, CA. The project improved the access between the BART station and the Theater Square Area of Downtown Orinda by replacing an existing path and stairs with an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramp and staircase.  Lighting was installed beneath the freeway structure and along the path to improve pedestrian safety at night.  The project encourages the public to visit the Orinda Downtown by foot and by bicycle, particularly at night, reducing dependence on motor vehicles. 

In all, fourteen projects earned the prestigious Honor Award distinction, fifteen were recognized with Merit Awards, and eight Commendation Awards were granted.

Photographs of award winning projects can be found here.


ACEC California-Sponsored Legislation Signed into Law, End of Session Preview

2018 is proving to be another successful year in ACEC California’s legislative undertakings. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 920 (Cannella) last week, which extends the permission for engineering, land surveying, and architectural firms to organize as limited liability partnerships (LLP) in California. Without this legislation, these professions’ ability to form LLPs would have expired on January 1, 2019; instead, the permission is extended for an additional seven years. ACEC California enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres)—the organization’s 2017 legislator of the year—and co-sponsors, the American Institute of Architects California Council.

ACEC California members and the design professional community at large have prioritized preserving this form of partnership option because LLPs provide flexible management, operation, and taxation structures. LLPs are a hybrid of a corporation and a general partnership.  Like a general partnership, all partners have equal rights in the management of an LLP. Simply, SB 920 ensures one more tool that California businesses can employ that allows them to be nimble in a 21st Century economy. ACEC California is confident that after several more years of design professionals demonstrating successful and responsible use of LLPs, the Legislature will eliminate the sunset altogether.

Although ACEC California achieved early success by having its sponsored legislation signed in July, it is anticipated that the remainder of the session will be fast-paced and demanding. Before the two-year legislative session adjourns at midnight on August 31, legislators will make decisions on the hundreds of remaining bills. ACEC California leadership, Legislative Committee and advocates continue to be actively engaged in monitoring bills, lending support to policies that promote the design professions, and negotiating to remove language from bills that would hinder California’s business climate.

This year, ACEC California has already been effective in staving off an attempt to require the use public employees for certain public works projects in Orange County, neutralizing an unreasonable CEQA expansion, and working in coalition to sideline a bill that would excise design and construction companies from statutes of repose for water contamination lawsuits. In the coming weeks, ACEC California will continue to participate in, among other things, the Legislature’s ongoing discussions related to restructuring California’s tax-scheme. One proposal, Senator Bob Hertzberg’s (D-Van Nuys) SB 993, includes a new tax on services, which would include engineering and land surveying services. While SB 993 is not expected to progress this year, it is imperative that ACEC California and other professional associations educate lawmakers about the chilling economic impact such a tax would effect. Stay tuned for a complete legislative wrap-up in September!

Senator Cannella and ACEC California Recognize Engineering Scholarship Recipient

Senator Cannella and ACEC California Scholarship Award Winner Linda Lim

Senator Anthony Cannella (R – Ceres) joined representatives from the American Council of Engineering Companies, California earlier this month to recognize an aspiring engineering student from California State University, Fresno State.

Linda Lim, a third-year undergraduate student with an emphasis in Structural and Transportation Studies, is one of eleven recipients of the 2018-2019 ACEC California Scholarship Foundation Awards. Ms. Lim was presented with a certificate from Senator Cannella at the Senator’s district office in Ceres, California. In addition to pursuing her undergraduate degree, Ms. Lim is also currently working on two research papers alongside Dr. Aly Tawfik: the first is estimating the future costs of shared autonomous vehicles; and the other on evaluating California’s current road infrastructure.

In a statement congratulating all of the scholarship award recipients, Senator Cannella said, “I am a proud member of the engineering industry, and I am encouraged that the next generation of intelligent, promising engineers are dedicating their time and effort to complete their degrees and start a career in this noble profession. The students receiving these scholarships from ACEC are certainly the pride of California.”

Senator Cannella being honored as ACEC California's 2017 Legislator of the Year

Also, during the small commemoration, Mike Cooper – 2018 ACEC California President and, senior project manager at Mark Thomas – recognized Senator Cannella as ACEC California’s 2017 Legislator of the Year for his outstanding service and representation of the engineering profession. Mr. Cooper was joined by his ACEC California colleagues: Jason Paul of Blackburn Consulting, Henry Liang of MKN Associates, Mike Auchter of Teter, and Bill Wagner of HMH.

ACEC California Announces 2018-2019 Scholarship Foundation Recipients

UntitledToday the American Council of Engineering Companies, California announced the recipients of its 2018-2019 Scholarship Foundation awards. ACEC California’s Scholarship Foundation awards annual scholarships to accomplished graduate and undergraduate college students working toward a degree in engineering or land surveying, with the top award recipient nominated to apply for the ACEC National scholarship competition.

“ACEC California members are proud to help support the bright and promising careers of these students,” said Brad Diede, Executive Director of ACEC California. “As California moves forward to strengthen its transportation, water and housing infrastructure, it is important to help invest in developing the next generation of engineering and land surveying professionals.”

In total, ACEC California awarded a total of $52,000 in scholarship funds to 11 students: five graduate students and six undergraduate students. This year’s scholarship recipients have demonstrated notable achievement in their respective areas of study and a strong interest in pressing policy issues facing California, including: co-authoring international conference papers regarding seismic behavior of tall buildings; drafting research estimating the future costs of shared autonomous vehicles; and leading a research project involving the study of the mechanical behavior of hybrid fiber-reinforced concrete.

Scholarship Flyer_Page_2.png



ACEC California Joins Supporters Urging Water Districts To Move California WaterFix Forward

CAL_WATERFIX_Logo_4CCalifornia’s water supply is at risk. 40 percent of our drinking water travels long distances through 100-year-old dirt levees – leaving our water supply vulnerable to salt water intrusion or such natural disasters as earthquakes. Governor Brown recognizes the critical need to modernize the state’s water distribution system and is supporting the California WaterFix – a comprehensive water storage and distribution solution that is the culmination of nearly a decade of planning, design and expert analysis from the state’s leading water policy experts.

That is why ACEC California joined a large and diverse coalition of nonprofits, businesses, environmentalists, elected officials and local governments that support the California WaterFix to communicate the need for the project to a number of local water districts, officials, and the public. As a result, this summer resulted in significant momentum for the project, with positive opinions from the federal government and project approval by the state.

Since September, State Water Project (SWP) contractors across the state have recently voted to more forward and support WaterFix, including Metropolitan Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Kern County Water Agency, Zone 7 Water Agency, and others.

Unfortunately, the large agricultural Westlands Water District, that receives water from the federal Central Valley project, opted out of the current financing plan. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move forward with a “user-based” financing plan that ensures water contractors only pay for the water they receive.

It is also important to clarify that the while the Department of the Interior confirmed publicly that it does not support the current funding plan, the federal government will continue to work with the state and stakeholders in an effort to move the project forward.

The bottom line is that the system of century-old dirt levees that delivers water to 25 million Californians is vulnerable to both natural disasters and rising sea levels. The state must act to fix this infrastructure; and fortunately, despite these minor setbacks, the dialogue continues to move forward. Experts are continuing to explore how SWP contractors and Central Valley Project stakeholders can continue to work together on the project.

The California WaterFix has undergone unprecedented review and analysis by the state’s leading water experts, engineers, and conservationists. It will improve the safety and reliability of our water distribution system by upgrading aging and outdated infrastructure, and ACEC California will remain a supportive partner of improving and protecting the state’s water supply.

Meet Kwasi Akwabi at Kimley-Horn

The engineering industry attracts professionals with wonderfully diverse and varied backgrounds. And last year, ACEC California launched a Diversity Leadership Council, as part of an effort to highlight just that.

For the next few months, will be publishing blog posts that introduce engineering and land-surveying professionals with varied and diverse backgrounds. The engineering profession, after all, is made up of people – people from all walks of life, with different cultural influences, different academic backgrounds, and different (and oftentimes extraordinarily unique) stories about how they came to be an engineer.

Kwasi picture

Kwasi Akwabi is a registered civil engineer and project manager in the intelligent transportation systems group at Kimley-Horn, with 13 years of experience leading a wide range of transportation planning and design projects throughout California and other parts of the country. Kwasi graduated from UC Davis in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Kwasi’s core practice focuses on planning and design of freeway and arterial intelligent transportation systems projects. Outside of the office, Kwasi is an avid golfer and soccer player, and enjoys spending time traveling with his wife and two young daughters.

Q: What first attracted you to becoming an engineer? Was there a specific childhood connection? Or did you come across the engineering profession in your later academic career?

I loved to draw as a kid, and I was pretty good at it, so I really wanted to become an architect. However, the colleges I wanted to attend either required an art portfolio/evidence of formal art training (which I didn’t have) or didn’t have an architecture program at all. So, I scratched that idea.

I entered college as an electrical engineering major, but after a few quarters of computer science classes, I realized that wasn’t something I really wanted to do. My roommate was a civil engineering major, and had taken a lot of the same prerequisite classes I’d taken. His civil engineering classes seemed way more interesting and more practical, so I decided to switch my major to civil engineering. I’d always wanted to do something technical, specifically in engineering or architecture, but I sort of stumbled into civil engineering.

Q: What do you work on in your current capacity and what project(s) are you most proud of?

I mainly manage staff working on transportation infrastructure and operations projects. A lot of my projects involve designing systems and infrastructure that make transportation networks “smart,” allowing those who maintain and operate roadway systems to communicate with roadside devices, and roadside devices to communicate with motorists. I’ve had the chance to work on a lot of really cool projects in my career, but the one I’m probably most of proud of is the I-80 Integrated Corridor Mobility project here in the Bay Area. It was a cutting-edge project that was technically complex and involved a lot of different stakeholders.

What is the one thing you wish people understood about your job or civil engineering in general?

One specifically comes to mind, especially regarding transportation: not all roadway projects are intended to make things “better” for drivers. Oftentimes, we’re looking at roadways as a whole, and trying to figure out how to make them more efficient and safer for everyone, including motorists, transit users, cyclists, and pedestrians. Sometimes what’s better for one type of user, may not be as good for a different type of user. But at the end of the day, the idea is that it’s better for all users as a whole.

The other thing I wish people would recognize is that small changes can make a big difference. I know it’s difficult for people to get excited about a project that reduces their commute time by 5-10 minutes. But if you think about all the other cars on the road making the same trip 4-5 days a week over the course of a few days, a month, year and beyond, the travel time savings really add up. That also results in reduced wear and tear on your vehicle, less fuel consumption, reduction in vehicle emissions, and more time to spend with friends and family.

Q: Is it important to you to help develop the next generation of engineers? From your perspective, how might the profession do better at helping recruit both more students of color and women into the engineering profession?

It’s extremely important. I think a lot of the issues and challenges we face today in the engineering world are very similar (if not the same) to the challenges that our mentors and predecessors faced throughout their careers. The difference is that we now have significantly more powerful technological tools at our disposal to help take on those challenges and an opportunity to come up with more useful, comprehensive, and (hopefully) lasting solutions. We need people who can understand and fully embrace those tools, but also know when to use their best judgement and trust their instincts rather than relying on the machine to do all the work. It’s a pretty challenging time for young engineers outside of tech. Young civil engineers may feel like they’re being left behind, in many ways. But I feel very optimistic about our industry. I think the demand for the skill set that civil engineers possess will continue to grow, and grow more quickly, into the very near future. 

In terms of recruiting more women and minorities, I think this is an issue with as many obstacles as there are solutions. But I’m optimistic that it’s a solvable problem. My perspective is that a big part of it (though certainly not all of it) comes down to exposure. If we want more women and minorities in the profession, then we need to expose more women and minorities to the profession to get them interested and engaged early on. There aren’t enough women and minorities in the engineering workforce because there aren’t enough women and minorities studying engineering in school, or in the pipeline behind those who’ve already made it to college. We have some now, but we need many more. So, we should work with engineering departments of universities and colleges to actively recruit women and students of color, similar to the way universities recruit student athletes. I’m not saying we need to offer all of them a scholarship, but be serious and deliberate about recruiting: seek out and invite students who have demonstrated high aptitudes in math and science (or even just those who are interested) to spend some time discovering what it’s like to be an engineering student. Provide them with information on scholarships and financial aid. Put them in contact with current students and alumni who are in, or from, their area. Make it clear to them that being an engineer isn’t something out of their reach.

And while I truly believe it will take an all-hands-on deck type of approach to increase the number of women and minorities in engineering, I also believe it’s very powerful to see people who look like you doing things you maybe never thought you could do, or maybe never even considered. So, having strong representation from the demographics we’re looking to encourage is also very important.

On the professional side, I think companies and agencies are doing well to break down internal barriers to advancement for women and minorities in the workplace. So, that obviously needs to continue. I think the next logical step is for companies and agencies to actively promote a diverse workplace, and articulate the benefits (both from a business perspective, and a company culture perspective) that come with it.

Q: What would be the dream project you would choose to work on?

My dream project would probably involve some kind of cutting-edge technology. I think in the transportation world, connected and autonomous vehicles are something we all know will very shortly be entering our everyday lives and will disrupt our industry. I hope to work on a design project that will accommodate this technological advancement and provide the infrastructure needed to maximize its potential so it can be safe, efficient, and improve people’s lives.

It’s here!


The American Council of Engineering Companies, California’s annual magazine Engineering & Surveying Business Review has published its 2017 issue.

The Spring 2017 issue features broad content including ACEC California’s 2017 Engineering Excellence Awards, articles on ACEC California’s successes during the 2016 elections, and key updates on legislative efforts and priorities in Sacramento. Some key articles you should check out include:


Engineering Excellence Awards

Every year, the EEA Honor and Award recipients showcase the exceptional work design professionals can achieve to serve communities and the wider public. ACEC California’s Golden State Award recipient, the Golden 1 Center that was designed by AECOM in association with Henderson Engineering, Inc, is featured on this year’s cover. The Golden 1 Center is home to the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings, and is the first indoor sports arena in the world to achieve LEED platinum certification. Along with the Golden State Award Winner, each EEA Honor and Merit recipient is also highlighted in the issue.

Capitol Update

There are three separate articles that outline key legislative policy issues, give an overview of election outcomes, and summarize ACEC California’s efforts to protect and promote the engineering and land surveying professions. ACEC California Executive Director Brad Diede, ACEC California Director of Government Affairs Kelly Garman, and Gene Erbin, ACEC California’s government affairs representative from Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, all authored articles to keep you up to speed on anticipated 2017 legislative action and revisit specific achievements in the 2016 legislation session.

Diversity Leadership Council

Another highlight of this year’s issue is the announcement by Dawn Antonucci, who serves as Vice President/Principal Towill, Inc. In her article, Ms. Antonucci talks specifically about the need to continue to encourage open and inclusive work environments in the engineering and land surveying professions and find unique ways to increase access to the profession to all who are passionate about engineering.

Check out the 2017 Engineering & Surveying Business Review

Women’s History Month: Meet Amanda Lai of Kleinfelder

FullSizeRender_new-slightly-cropped[1]During the month of March, Women’s History month, ACEC California is highlighting the past and current notable contributions of women engineers and land surveyors. As such, we are highlighting accomplished female engineers and land surveyors to gain a better understanding of how they view women’s growing place in the engineering profession and how the profession can continue to reach out to aspiring young women engineers.

Amanda Lai is a project engineer in the water group at Kleinfelder, where she works on local projects to help alleviate California’s water challenges. Ms. Lai graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and spent three years at Parsons Corporation, working in road/highway engineering and earning her PE. She then decided to shift her professional focus to addressing the state’s water infrastructure needs.

Ms. Lai has also been named one of 2017 ACEC National’s Young Professionals of the Year.

Each year, ACEC National selects five young professionals from all over the country who represent excellence in their field and illustrate how their work has positive impacts on society. Amanda will formally accept the award at ACEC National’s 2017 Fall Conference.

Outside of the office, she serves as the President of the Engineers Without Borders San Diego Professional Chapter where she oversees international projects in El Salvador, India and Senegal that help to provide basic human needs in developing communities. She is also active in a mentorship program at Emerald Middle School in El Cajon and a STEM mentorship program at San Diego High School. In her spare time, she travels extensively and frequents local farmers markets where she dabbles with sustainable agriculture.

Below is a Q&A ACEC California conducted with Ms. Lai:

What was attractive about the profession of engineering?

Engineering is a fancy word for sustaining existence. Without engineering, the human race would have ceased to exist long ago. Most importantly, we would not have pizza.

What do you work on in your current capacity?

My team focuses on water treatment, storage and distribution. Living in Southern California is a constant reminder of the impact and imperativeness of water infrastructure. My team is comprised of a group of highly technical and creative engineers, and I am constantly amazed by their talent.

What is the one thing many people don’t understand about civil engineering?

Two things. Firstly, it’s everywhere, seen and unseen. A few obvious engineering feats are skyscrapers and bridges and the infrastructure supporting these marvels. In the last few years, I have been captivated by the things unseen, namely resource recovery. A few weeks ago, I participated in Engineering Day at the Mall where our EWB booth did a water demonstration that challenged many young students to think about where their water comes from and the engineering behind our modern existence.

Secondly, engineering is incredibly innovative. We are artists, and science is our medium. I find it amusing that engineers are often billed as less-than creative. If that were the case, we would be walking everywhere, Los Angeles would still be an uninhabitable desert, and there would be no pizza.

Is it important to you to help develop the next generation of women engineers? How might the profession do better at reaching out to aspiring young women?

I cannot imagine a world without female engineers. I was raised predominantly by strong and decisive women, and to think that there could exist a future where there are fewer females in the STEM field is unthinkable. My grandmother and her six children (5 daughters, 1 son) fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War; they oftentimes had no choice but to work hard and to work honestly. Growing up, this was normal.

We need to talk about the absence of women in leadership positions. I am lucky to work in a time and place where there are laws prohibiting explicit gender biases in the workplace, but we are now presented with the subtle microaggressions that require a different approach. Microaggressions are like the vestigial organs of our patriarch’s past. What’s worse is that people don’t like to talk about it because it’s not so obvious, but no battle worth fighting is easy. Kleinfelder hosts a quarterly women’s network to designate a space specifically to talk about inequality in all forms. Forums like this facilitate conversation to acknowledge disparities and ways to address them.

We also need to normalize women and minorities in the STEM field. My hope is that students will one day no longer have to hear the statistics about how engineering is a male-dominated field. We exist! I work with a local middle school as a mentor and STEM advocate. I have received letters from some aspiring female engineers who are encouraged by the very sight of a female engineer. I do not consider myself to be a highly exceptional engineer, but the fact that I am present in their lives is enough encouragement for them to continue pursuing their education, regardless of the antiquated statistics that they are fed.

What would be the dream project you would choose to work on?

Ideally, I would like to design a large-scale composting facility powered by vermiculture that can take in organic waste and biosolids and produce nutrient-dense compost for agriculture and protein-dense grub for livestock feed.

Realistically, I plan to travel to Senegal this summer with my EWB team to implement our sanitation project.


Women’s History Month: Meet Jennifer Akashi of MNS Engineers

March is Women’s History Month and it is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the critical contributions women have made to the engineering profession. From Nora Stanton Blatch in 1905 becoming the first woman in the United States to obtain a degree in civil engineering and Lillian Moller Gilbreth who became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering to Dr. Ellen Ochoa Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the first Hispanic woman in space, women have been breaking down barriers to open professional pathways for future generations of female engineers.

This month, ACEC California will be highlighting women engineers that are excelling at their profession and helping set the standard for future engineering professionals through dedication, high work ethic, and a commitment to serving the public. MNS Engineers submitted a profile of Jennifer Akashi, an engineer with a deep interest in water infrastructure.

Meet Jennifer Akashi of MNS Engineers

Jennifer AkashiIn celebration of Women’s History Month, MNS Engineers (a multi-service infrastructure consulting firm with offices throughout California) was asked to highlight the achievements of one of our rising stars. While we have many women at MNS who meet this criterion, we chose to focus on one of our younger engineers, Jennifer Akashi, EIT and 2016 CalPoly Pomona graduate.

Jennifer comes from an engineering family. Her father, a mechanical engineer, first sparked her interest in engineering as a profession. From a young age, Jennifer spent many hours in the garage with her dad hammering, welding, assembling, building. You name it, they did it. “My dad always had a hands-on project for us to work on in the garage” says Jennifer, “He can fix anything”. As an adult, she attributes her handy(wo)man skills to this time spent with her father.

While having an engineer in the household certainly influenced her decision to pursue engineering, it was ultimately her love of the environment and sciences which led her to choose civil engineering as her career.

1410900344665Unlike many students entering college, Jennifer knew she wanted to get a civil engineering degree. She just didn’t know EXACTLY what she wanted to do. To help guide her through her course work and lay the path for her future, she joined an on-campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). It was there she was advised to seek out internships as a means of focusing her career. She pursued both public and private sector opportunities; assisted with proposal preparation and budgets; and was involved in the design of water, wastewater, and surface water projects.

In August 2016, Jennifer joined MNS. When asked what attracted her to the firm, she replied, “This was the first job (in engineering) where my bosses were female. Having strong women role models and leaders was an important factor in my decision making.” She also enjoys the variety of work and growth opportunities within MNS and is particularly interested in recycled water. As her technical abilities mature, Jennifer sees herself in a Project Management role overseeing large water infrastructure projects.

Jennifer’s next challenge is the California Professional Engineers exam.

IMG_0893Some fun facts about Jennifer:

  • She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with an Environmental Emphasis
  • She enjoys backpacking with her boyfriend, reading, cooking, and traveling
  • After graduation, she spent a month traveling through Europe.


ACEC California Kicks Off 2017 Engineers Week Honoring Scholarship Foundation Recipients

As the engineering professionals kick off 2017 Engineers Week, the American Council of Engineering Companies, California announced the recipients of the 2017-2018 Scholarship Foundation awards. ACEC California’s Scholarship Foundation annually awards scholarships to deserving graduate or undergraduate college students working toward a degree in engineering or land surveying, with the top award recipients nominated to apply for the ACEC National scholarship competition.

This year, nine students received scholarship funds – three graduate students and six undergraduate students. In all, the Scholarship Foundation awarded a total of $25,000 in scholarship funds.

“Supporting future engineering and land surveying professionals along their career path is a critical part of strengthening our industry,” said Brad Diede, Executive Director at ACEC California. “I am especially proud that year after year ACEC California members recognize the need to give back and help those who are as passionate about the profession as they are.”

Engineers Week also launched this week, statewide and nationally, as engineers start to participate in events to highlight the critical role the engineering profession plays in the lives of everyday Americans. From large scale public works projects, such as airport seismic safety, to smaller yet vital projects such as water treatment systems in small communities, engineers are honored this week for their efforts to serve the public.

To recognize 2017 Engineers Week in California, ACEC California members will join Senator Anthony Cannella (R – Ceres) on Thursday, February 23, 2017, on the floor of the California State Senate as he presents Senate Resolution 18 to recognize 2017 Engineers Week.

The 2017 ACEC California Scholarship Foundation award recipients are listed below:

Graduate Students


Mani Firouzian, University of California, Irvine – Mani is pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering. Since his undergraduate studies, Mani has been working as an intern, engineer, consultant, and senior consultant for different private and state engineering firms. Mani is also a California Air Resources Board (CARB) accredited Lead Verifier under both CARB’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting and Offset Projects programs.



Arwa Tizani, University of California, Irvine – Arwa is pursuing a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. Arwa has also participated in engineering competitions through American Society of Civil Engineers and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. In addition, Arwa is holding the position of Academic Chair for a student social sorority Delta Delta Delta.


Kellie Cochran, California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo – Kellie is pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering and will focus on advanced wastewater treatment. Following her master’s program, Kellie is interested in pursuing a career in water reuse and resource management.



Undergraduate Students

margaritakovalchukMargarita Kovalchuk, California State University, Sacramento – Margarita is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. After interning at Kennedy/Jenks Consulting, Margarita is currently conducting research on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta with water resources professor Dr. Cristina Poindexter. She is also President of an award-winning Society of Women Engineers chapter at Sacramento State University.


img_0567Crystal Faqih, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – Crystal is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Crystal also serves as Vice President for Engineers Without Boarders, a student organization, as well being a member of the Society of Women Engineers to encourage young teens to consider engineering as a career choice.


img_9426-2Cheryl Fichter, University of California, Davis – Cheryl is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and serves as External Vice President of the Society of Women Engineers at UC Davis. Cheryl also has participated in undergraduate research in the Physical Chemistry department.


Brandon Elder, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – Brandon is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and serves as the secretary of the California Land Surveyors Association. In addition, Brandon is the Crew Chief for the Pacific Southwest Conference CPP surveying competition and is currently an intern for RKA Consulting Group.


Beau Forest, University of the Pacific – Beau is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and Computer Engineering. Beau is from Redding, California, where he graduated from University Preparatory High School as a co-valedictorian. He loves to design and create. Additionally, Beau looks forward to furthering his engineering and computer science skills so he can continue to do so at a higher level.

Sam Kinsey, University of Southern California – Sam is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. Sam serves on the Executive Board of USC’s chapter of the Construction Management Association of America as the Co-Chair of the annual Symposium fundraiser. Sam is also concurrently pursuing a Bachelor of Music Piano Performance.