ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering – College Edition, Provides a Look at the Future of the Profession

January 22, 2014
The 10 students selected as this year’s New Faces of Civil Engineering—College Edition achieved academic success and made a commitment to community involvement. Racheal Cooley, a student at University of South Alabama and a member of the school’s Concrete Canoe team helps place the concrete for her school’s canoe for the Concrete Canoe Competition at the ASCE Southeast Regional Conference. Photo Credit: Racheal Cooley

As we move further into the 21st century, civil engineers continue to evolve to meet the challenges of the future, including access to clean water for a growing population, aging infrastructure that is need of repair and renovation, preparation for the next natural disaster, and the effects of climate change.

How these problems are solved in 2025 or beyond will depend in large measure on the imagination and creativity of the generation of civil engineers in college today.

To provide a glimpse of who some of the innovative and creative engineers of the future will be, ASCE has selected 10 outstanding students as New Faces of Civil Engineering–College Edition. These students have not only achieved academic success and commitment to community involvement, but also demonstrated leadership, professional attitude, optimism, teamwork, excellence, and a sense of mission.

“I am blown away by the 10 New Faces of Civil Engineering–College Edition and their ability to keep the many facets of their personal and professional lives in balance,” says ASCE President Randall “Randy” S. Over, P.E., F.ASCE. “Their strong commitment to their academics, their service to ASCE and their communities forecasts a bright future ahead for our profession.”

The 10 students selected this year are:


As a volunteer with the Bihar (India) Disaster Management Authority, it was the responsibility of Manish Anand, S.M.ASCE, to guide people in the community and make them aware of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes that individuals living in India often face.

“It was actually a campaign program of the Bihar government related to saving lives and [reducing] damage to property,” says Anand, a student at the NIT Patna, India. “I interacted with the locals and convinced them [of] how they should construct their homes in order to protect themselves. Most of them agreed to the solutions that we presented.”

A member of the ASCE India Chapter, Anand recently participated in a national conference on Recent Advances in Civil Engineering, held at NIT Patna, which provided him with a golden opportunity to interact with many international civil engineers.

“Their highly motivating, innovative, and unique approach towards engineering influenced me much,” says Anand, who recently participated in the International Mathematics Olympiad. “They also talked about how engineering can be correlated with spirituality and humanity.”

Addressing the reason he chose civil engineering as a career, he added, “It was my father who inspired me to study engineering. He considers engineering as the topmost priority of our society.”


Melissa Butcher (2)When Melissa Butcher, S.M.ASCE was in high school she had no idea what engineering was.

Where I came from women were not encouraged to pursue such fields and I spent years believing I was not smart enough to do it,” says Butcher, who is attending the University of South Florida (USF) and has interned with the City of Tampa Wastewater Department and Golder Associates. “I had to learn the hard way. I knew I wanted to pursue a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field, but was not sure which one. I took a chance selecting engineering, but [looking back], it has been one of the most rewarding decisions I ever made. I am so proud I made it through the civil engineering program at USF in the last three and half years.”

Butcher volunteers not only at the annual USF Engineering EXPO, which attracts thousands of middle- and high-school-age students from around the Tampa Bay area to learn about the different educational and career avenues available through STEM subjects, but also with  Tampa Bay Watch, an organization that protects and restores estuaries in greater Tampa through scientific and educational programs, and Keep Tampa Beautiful.

“I currently serve as a mentor to two underclassmen [at USF] who are planning on pursuing engineering education,” says Bucher, who was 2011-2013 vice president of the USF Florida Water Environment Association and also selected by ASCE to attend the 2013 Emerging Leaders Alliance Conference in Reston, Virginia, this past December. “I am very passionate about helping young women gain confidence in their ability to pursue STEM careers; this will be a lifelong part of how I dedicate my free time.”


CooleyWhile attending the University of South Alabama (USA), Racheal Cooley, S.M.ASCE, participated in 2 research projects with 2 specific goals. First, to determine the degree to which potable water pipeline cleaning methods influence the ability of newly installed plastic pipe to release chemicals into drinking water, and second, to design and install a method to collect storm-water runoff in order to determine the effects of vegetative filter strips on storm-water constituents.

“This experience,” says Cooley, who won third place this past year in the National ASCE Daniel Mead Student Paper contest for her paper entitled “Ethical Considerations Concerning Policy Statement 465,” “has helped to make me competent in hands-on engineering application. It has also helped to reaffirm that I have chosen the right career path.”

President of the USA ASCE Student Chapter, Cooley is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of American Military Engineers, the Associated General Contractors, Tau Beta Pi, and the school’s Concrete Canoe team. She was named to the USA Presidents Scholars List in 2012.

“I have learned so much by participating in the American Society of Civil Engineers,” she says. “Being a member has opened up many doors for me, including [receiving an] Alabama ASCE Student of the Year Scholarship. I have learned that when I step out of my comfort zone and accept a difficult task, many other doors open up to me. I have learned how to be a leader, how to work effectively on a team, and how to serve my community. Being a member also helps me stay up to date on what is going on in the world of engineering.”

She concluded, “It has been my dream for a long time to become a civil engineer and contribute in the effort to make the world a better place.”


Jay Garth HeadshotAs an intern this past summer for the City of Birmingham, Michigan, Jay Garth, S.M.ASCE, got to see first-hand how civil engineers response to a natural disaster.

Two devastating rainstorms flooded the basements of over 100 homes in the city, particularly in a construction zone, leaving residents angry, asking for answers, and demanding compensation,” recalled Garth, a student at Wayne State University and member of the Chi Epsilon Honor Society. “To see the quick response of my bosses during the disaster clearly [evidenced] to me the level of commitment, integrity, and honor they have for themselves and their profession.

“This has been one of the best learning experiences for my career and personal life.”

Vice president of the Wayne State University ASCE Student Chapter, Garth has been a member of the school’s Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe teams. Involved with community activities, he is a member of the Habitat for Humanity Volunteers Committee and the Hurricane Gustav relief effort in Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. In addition, he was a volunteer this past year at the YES (Youth Engineering & Sciences) Expo, where he manned Wayne State’s Steel Bridge display and showed children how to make their own concrete.

Garth says it was a trip to the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, and a 300-foot rollercoaster called Millennium Force that made him decided to become a civil engineer.

“I was so amazed by these structures that I knew I wanted to somehow build them,” says Garth, who grew up Saginaw and now lives in Detroit, Michigan.


Ramon LopezOriginally, Ramon Lopez Jr., S.M.ASCE, was going to become an architect.

“As a draftsman with an associate’s degree in architectural drafting, I was hired to work for Lopez Engineering Group, a structural engineering firm in McAllen, Texas,” notes Lopez, a student at the University of Texas Pan-American (UTPA). “Oscar Lopez [P.E., M.ASCE], the owner of the company, was the person [who] inspired me to pursue engineering. My experience working with Mr. Lopez inspired me to change from architecture to engineering. I strive to be as good an engineer as Mr. Lopez.”

That’s a good thing for the civil engineering community, because throughout his college experience Lopez has been heavily involved with a number of activities, including HESTEC, an Hispanic Engineering Science and Technology Week event that promotes STEM careers among South Texas students who are predominantly Hispanic; TACRAO (Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers) 2013, where hundreds of students from the local high school and middle school attended to gain information about applying for college; and Bronc Round UP, an event held where undecided registered students gain information on potential degrees and social clubs.

“I really try to lead by example by showing [these students] that if I can keep my [full-time job at Lopez Engineering], pass two 21-hour semesters [at UTPA], and stay heavily involved in ASCE,” says Lopez, a member of the UTPA ASCE Student Chapter and the school’s Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe teams, “then they can accomplish that as well.”


Luong_Trang-ASCE-2Taking on the responsibility of being vice president of activities with the University of South Florida (USF) Student Chapter offered Trang Luong, S.M.ASCE, an unexpected opportunity to enhance her personal and professional development.

“My participation,” explained Luong, who is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, the Florida Engineering Society, the Society of Women Engineers, and the University Student Tutor Association, “has helped me to cultivate a wide range of social relationships, such as meaningful and supportive friendships with my fellow engineering students and networking opportunities with faculty, staff, and professional engineers.

“Taking responsibility for managing and organizing all chapter events and activities, including recruitment, field trips, community service, fundraising, and biweekly meetings, has significantly strengthened my leadership skills and professionalism, and made me a better engineer and a more resourceful student.”

On April 2, the National Engineers Week Foundation selected Luong to serve as ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering, College Edition representative and received a $500 cash scholarship.

Among the many other highlights of Luong’s young career was being an invited speaker at the USF College of Engineering 20th Anniversary Heart of Gold Scholarship Awards Luncheon on October 4, 2013, to share her experience of engineering study. The speech was presented to the university president and dean, faculty of the USF College of Engineering, and donors, sponsors, and scholarship recipients.

Loung also participated in a research internship project in structural dynamics at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany, in 2013 by performing dynamic analysis using a finite-element program, and designing a beam’s  models to analyze and compare with experimental data. The 12-week internship was a prestigious national scholarship funded by the German Academic Exchange Service Research Internships in Science and Engineering Program.

“Having a chance to study abroad [widened] my horizons,” says Luong, “and showed that it was not too late for me to start learning math, physics, and science – the subjects which I could not believe I would be capable of.”


Jamieson Matthews - ASCEJamieson Matthews, S.M.ASCE, has a dual passion for both engineering and physics. As a student at Samford University studying engineering physics, he was able to combine these 2 affections by being a member of a team that designed and built a man-powered moon buggy and raced it in the NASA Great Moon Buggy Race at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Simultaneously earning bachelor’s degrees from 2 different institutions – civil engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and physics at Samford – Matthews participated in an unusual engineering research project regarding the flight of a Frisbee.

“These experiences have shown me that engineering truly interests me and that I will thoroughly enjoy working as a professional engineer,” says Matthews, who graduates from both universities in May 2014.

Besides currently serving as vice president of the UAB ASCE Student Chapter, Matthews is a member of Chi Epsilon, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Delta Epsilon Iota,  and Alpha Lambda Delta. He has been named to the Dean’s List, and was a 2013-2014 NASA Space Grant Scholar and the 2013 Charles E. Alexander Memorial Transportation Engineering Scholar; he was also the recipient of the Seal Award and Wheeler Award from Samford University.

“Being a member and then the vice president of UAB’s ASCE chapter has been a great experience,” says Matthews, who interned as an assistant design engineer with Almon Associates. “It has also been a great way to encourage other [civil engineering students], whether it is in our coursework or in motivation to apply for that next internship or job. ASCE has also helped me prepare for life after college by my associating with the Younger Member Group in Birmingham.”


Kristina Milaj [ASCE]As a member of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB), Kristina Milaj, S.M.ASCE, was selected in the summer of 2012 to be part of the travel team that went to Lela, Kenya, to supervise the drilling and installation of a hand-pumped well for the community and manage the rainwater catchment system design implementation for the primary school.

That experience reinforced my faith in engineering practice and made me realize the complexity of our problems and the importance of various skills needed for the job,” says Milaj, a student at Oregon State University (OSU) who has served as executive board member and secretary of the school’s EWB chapter.

A native of Shkoder, Albania, Milaj recalls how engineering was not even a word in her vocabulary until she came to the U.S. as an exchange student.

“In the summer we walked [many] kilometers to find water, and in the winter our roof leaked and our house was cold,” she recounts. “Realizing that engineering knowledge combined with experience is essential to solving new problems, improving the quality of life is my main inspiration for choosing to study civil engineering.”

Executive chair of ASCE’s OSU Student Chapter and a member of the school’s Steel Bridge team, Milaj has been active with EWB and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). With EWB she was a member of its Kenya Project Documentary, served as West Coast Regional Conference Workshop coordinator and as a fundraising banquet keynote speaker, and hosted EWB booths at campus events. With SWE, Milaj was a presenter at their Region J Conference.

“Through my involvement with EWB, ASCE, and SWE student chapters, I have developed communication, critical thinking, time management, and leadership skills beyond what any classroom could offer,” says Milaj, who was an intern with the City of Vancouver, Washington.


O'CallaghanElyse O’Callaghan, S.M.ASCE, comes from a family of engineers.

My dad, grandpa, uncle, and cousin all worked in different disciplines of engineering,” says O’Callaghan, a student at Marquette University, where she is a 2013-2014 Marquette University Manresa Scholar. “They gave me the exposure to engineering but I was inspired to pursue a degree in engineering by my high school Intro to Engineering teacher, who made the class interesting and engaging. ”

“Ultimately, what inspired me to pursue a career in civil engineering was my dad and aunt, who took me on a trip around Guatemala while I was in middle school, where I got to see firsthand the power of a reliable bridge – or lack thereof.”

Actively involved with the Marquette University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders–USA (EWB), where she served as 2012-2013 president , O’Callaghan is presently the chapter’s project manager for a vehicular bridge senior design project in Guatemala, which began in August 2013 and will be constructed in January 2015. Previously, she was project co-lead for a suspended-cable pedestrian bridge in Guatemala, October 2011 – May 2012.

Among her other activities, she was selected to serve as a keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association Annual Conference, January 2013, and was a presenter at ASCE’s Wisconsin Annual Meeting in September 2012.

“My work with EWB-USA gave me leadership experience starting [with the] freshman year that has taught me how to effectively manage student and professional volunteers to accomplish a major goal,” O’Callaghan says. “As a result, I gained a deeper appreciation for my studies because my exposure to EWB projects showed me how my course material was extremely relevant. Most importantly, I came to appreciate just how important reliable infrastructure is and how my life’s work and service are inseparable.”


Wells.Andrew_New Faces PhotoAs with many children, Andrew Wells, S.M.ASCE, was always playing with Legos.

“My collection,” recalled Wells, now a student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), “was so extensive that it took up half of the family room in my house, a room that came to be known as the Lego Room. When it came time to decide what I wanted to do for a living, designing the built environment seemed like a natural fit because I was already doing it [with Legos].”

While in middle and high school, Wells had the opportunity to go on 4 humanitarian missions to Haiti, the last one being several months following the 2010 earthquake.

“Serving the people there has impacted my life in many ways, from helping me to see the world through other peoples’ eyes to helping me to appreciate what I have,” says Wells, a member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers and the Structural Engineers of New Hampshire. “It certainly is a reality check to realize that most of what I own is unnecessary to day-to-day life. I think the most important lesson I took from those experiences is that most people – whether you are from Haiti, China, or the United States – are similar.”

Presently, Wells serves as UNH liaison to the ASCE New Hampshire Board of Direction.

“I actively participate in professional society board meetings and [in] organizing events between students, faculty, staff, and professionals, [which] has greatly increased my communication and managerial skills,” says Wells. “In addition, I think there is much to be gained from simply being around practicing engineers. Attending both board and general ASCE meetings has given me a much broader perspective of the industry and helped me get a feel for the companies in my area.”

  • Avatar Ron Boenau, F-ASCE

    This article is a great way to recognize the students that are already demonstrating a commitment to use their knowledge and skills for the advancement of the people-orieted civil engineering profession.

    Congratulations to the ASCE staff for putting this together.

  • Thanks for highlighting these bright and engaging civil engineering students! It is a pleasure to see the variety do interests and motivations that brought these young people to engineering. The diversity of people and institutions reflects the great ground that civil engineering has covered since I was a student in the mid-1970s. I can’t help but smile back at these student’s smiling faces and know that they, and our profession, will excel.

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