Browsing Tag

civil engineering


STEMinist Profile: Flor Hernandez, Civil Engineering Student

Flor Hernandez

Civil Engineering Student

California State University, Los Angeles

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I grew up with a father who was in the construction field and I was always intrigued by the things that he would share regarding the construction and remodeling of buildings. I also knew it was one of the more challenging careers and I am the type of person who likes challenges.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
One of the coolest projects I have worked on has been the Concrete Canoe we build every year for the ASCE Conference. It has been one of the coolest because the project itself is definitely a challenge, being able to see the whole process and the outcome is something amazing. While you are working so hard on the project you also get to build great relationships with your team. In my previous lab I worked on a high-throughput screen of FDA-approved drugs to look for activity that would be beneficial to DMD. I got to learn about the technology used for high-throughput screening and the project had very direct clinical relevance.

Role models/heroes:
I look up to any female in STEM but in particular one of my role models is Jane Chmielinski who has climbed her way up to be the Chief Operating Officer for AECOM Technology Corporation.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Working with STEM is different than other careers. There is always something new to learn and in the end all we want is to make everyone’s lives better.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t give up. Nobody said it would be easy but it definitely is worth it!

Twitter: @F10r_H


STEMinist Profile: Carolyn Dougherty, Project Engineer

Carolyn Dougherty

Project Engineer

Tata Steel Projects

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
When I was finishing my BA at Berkeley and planning to go into international relations, I stumbled across a serialised version of Harry Harrison’s novel Tunnel Through the Deeps. For whatever reason, that book got me interested in civil engineering; I wrote papers on the subject as an undergraduate, then had the epiphany, ‘I could write papers about building railways, or I could actually go and BUILD some railways.’ When I finished my BA I immediately started university over again, in a couple of years completing a master’s degree in civil engineering at Berkeley.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to thank Harry Harrison for inspiring me to become a civil engineer; who knows, if I’d stuck with my original plan to be a diplomat I might be stamping passports in Outer Mongolia by now.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The restoration of Hardwick Park, an 18th century landscape garden near Sedgefield. I was brought in to manage the completion of the work because it had gone over budget and was in danger of not keeping its commitment to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I was able to sort things out and get the restoration work completed; the project and county staff did a beautiful job and the restoration won the Georgian Society award for landscape in 2009.

The park is a fascinating example of a mid 18th century circuit walk garden—its design gives visitors who walk the circuit a very specific emotional experience that resembles going to the theatre, reading a novel or seeing a film. While working on the park I learned a great deal about 18th century landscape design, which opened up a whole new field of knowledge for me; since then I’ve visited several other similar parks (none as nice as Hardwick!), and I gave a paper on the design of Hardwick at the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies conference in January 2012.

Role models/heroes:
None, I’m afraid—it would be crass to say ‘I did it all on my own’ since my parents paid for my first degree and supported me sporadically for some time afterward, but my career and my choices have been almost entirely of my own devising, without inspiration from role models or support from mentors. Not recommended!

I will, though, admit some admiration for I. K. Brunel. I’m amazed at how successful he was at talking people into things.

Why do you love working in STEM?
One thing I think is true in STEM that is not, at least not necessarily, true in other kinds of work is that we all understand the importance of interaction and collaboration. I like working in an environment where people routinely help each other, aren’t afraid to make (or acknowledge) mistakes, and are accustomed to working as teams. There are two reasons why engineering offices are like this, I think—first, the kind of work we do is so risky that we just can’t afford to cover up or ignore errors—we have to be open and honest about them, while at the same time acknowledging that mistakes are part of the human experience and not criticising or belittling people who make them. Second, there’s still a strong apprenticeship/collegial tradition in engineering, and people are used to the experience of routinely and casually teaching and being taught.

Also, being an engineer has provided me all sorts of opportunities that most other jobs wouldn’t have—particularly the opportunity to obtain EU citizenship though I was born in California.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t sell yourself short—you don’t have to be perfect to be successful. Spend time with people who appreciate and value what you’re interested in and what you do.

Favorite website/app:
I’m going to plug Sydney Padua’s Lovelace and Babbage comics here, I think, as of possible interest to readers:

Twitter: @CarolyninYork


STEMinist Profile: Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, Lecturer, College of ECST

Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, PhD

Lecturer, College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST)
Cal State University, Los Angeles

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Truthfully, I was inspired by the show Star Trek. I wanted to be the Science Officer for one of the Starships, preferably as Mr. Spock’s assistant. It was also one of the ways I learned English. Watching the show made me take my science studies more seriously, and as I grew up on the beach the decision to be an oceanographer was an easy one. While doing my undergraduate degree I became very interested in the issues regarding water pollution and also sustainability, which inspired me to continue my studies and get a doctorate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering (Iowa, ’08).

I grew up in Mexico, and we lived in an area that frequently had no power or running water. Many times my homework was done by the light of oil lamps. So that instilled a desire to get ahead and I knew getting an education was my best option. Everyone faces challenges; it’s how you respond to them that matters.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Currently I have a class that is designing a low-cost single occupancy home to be placed in an urban environment of a developed country. My students have decided to use cargo containers for their designs, and will be submitting their work to an international competition. It is exciting to see their creativity and what they come up with as they are not limited by what “should” be done.

Overall, the coolest was when I was a whale watching guide in an ecotourism camp in Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I met a lot of people while living in a 1 sq mile island that had solar power, sea-water enzyme compost toilets, solar water heaters, and no electronics. It was my first experience living such a green lifestyle and I loved it. Also touching the whales was an incredible experience. I can now say I have touched the belly button of a wild gray whale. :-p

Role models/heroes:
U2, for inspiring me with their music and helping me become aware of social justice issues, and both my Abuelita (grandma) & Mom, who pushed me to succeed and get an education.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love seeing my students become aware of STEM related issues, and also when they realize that they truly have mastered material they thought was out of their league. I work primarily with traditionally underrepresented students, so being a role model and mentor is something I take very seriously. Teaching STEM is challenging, as you have to really know the material and be able to explain it so different people can understand. It also keeps you up to date, as keeping the material relevant is important so I am always learning about the subjects I teach so I can put the concepts from the textbooks into context for my students.

Advice for future STEMinists?

  • Believe in yourself, and do not listen to anyone that tells you that you are not able/good enough.
  • Find a mentor(s) and maintain the relationship(s), thank you letters go a long way.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help, it is an incredibly important skill to have and very hard to learn.
  • Apply to everything no matter what it is: jobs, scholarships, workshops, internships, etc. Do not disqualify yourself from anything by thinking you are not good enough. Always apply!
  • Learn to say NO and don’t apologize for it. Guys don’t sweat it, neither should you.

Favorite website or app:
I love Inhabitat for all things green, it is very easy to navigate. I really enjoy Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest as it shows how people can live in much smaller homes than what the average person has, and still be comfortable. It inspired me to move to a place that is about 360 square feet.

Twitter: @water_n_science is my professional account, @EnvPhD is the account I use for my classes and students.


STEMinist Profile: Pamela Broviak, Civil Engineer, City of Geneva

Pam Broviak

Pamela Broviak

Civil Engineer – Asst. Dir of Public Works/City Engineer
City of Geneva

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
In 1980 the assistant dean of engineering with the University of Tennessee contacted me when I was still in high school because he had seen my ACT scores and wanted to encourage me to change my intended major from psychology to engineering. After corresponding for a year and visiting with him on campus, he convinced me that engineering would be a great career choice.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The implementation of automatic meter reading (AMR) because:

I’d spent five years watching as another entity tried to unsuccessfully implement a similar project that never worked correctly and continually drained money from the city. With our project we were able to propose an implementation that not only was half the cost of what a private consultant had proposed, but it was successfully installed in one year with no major problems.

It was also a cool project because it allowed us to monitor water usage throughout the city on almost a real time basis, and it monitored water leaks on private lines and on our mains. So the end result was the replacement of a failed project with one that was installed efficiently and economically and provided us with useful data to help us better serve customers and operate our system. And AMR systems provide a foundation that will make other innovations possible.

Role models and heroes:
The many older engineers/professors who mentored me and patiently laid the foundation of my engineering knowledge.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Develop your confidence, communication and technical skills, and network – they will provide the support you need to meet any challenge.

Favorite website or app:
Anything by Google.

Twitter: @pbroviak