Environmental and chemical engineers work for change
“Doing the same old things only gives you the same old results, and that’s not good enough for today’s challenges.” – Burk Kalweit, AAEES
“What’s hard is to determine where a clean environment and a robust economy meet in a way that is beneficial to everybody.” – Roberta Gellner, Dominion
By Dan Margherita
Senior Contributing Editor
'People working in this industry start with a cause,” believes Burk Kalweit, executive director of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES, Annapolis, MD).
“AAEES is setting up student chapters in environmental engineering nationwide. We’re seeing a lot of students who are passionate about the desire to make a difference in the environment, not just for the nation, but for the global community.
“The big thing we talk about among our membership is sustainability,” notes Kalweit. “It’s generally acknowledged that climate change is really happening, and related to that are a whole series of issues as to how we adapt to it before we overwhelm the environment.
“First, there needs to be consensus that we have to do something. The next important questions are, what do we want to do, and what do we need to be doing, to prove technologies on a micro level that will have an impact at a macro level?”
Kalweit cites the work of one AAEES member firm that rehabilitated Echo Park Lake, a fourteen-acre urban lake northeast of Los Angeles. For a modest budget of $8 million, the area was completely restored, a boon not only to the area’s ecology, but to the economy as well. Seventeen new restaurants opened on the periphery of the lake, which created jobs and revenue. There was also a rise in property values around the lake. “The payback was phenomenal,” says Kalweit.
“In this industry, much of what goes on is driven by the government,” he explains. “The actual engineering work is put out for bids to consulting and engineering companies who do the design, implementation and post-project follow-up and then move on. Many of the jobs in environmental engineering are in consulting companies.”
A great opportunity for the imaginative
Kalweit also points out that a lot of companies are seeing older employees retire, and he calls this an opportunity for transitional change. “A lot of experience and expertise will be walking out the door over the next ten years,” he says. “People who aren’t afraid to jump in and make a difference can capitalize on this.
“There are a lot of things that haven’t been done because it has been the conservative, safe thing not to do them. Doing the same old things only gives you the same old results, and that’s not good enough for today’s challenges. It’s time for some imagination.”
Roberta Gellner manages environmental policy at Dominion Gas
“It’s easy to say we want a clean environment and we want economic development and jobs. What’s hard to determine is where these two meet in a way that is beneficial to everybody. That interface is where things are regulated,” declares Roberta Gellner, environmental policy manager at Dominion Gas (Parkersburg, WV), a division of Dominion (Richmond, VA).
Dominion is one of the nation’s largest electric power and natural gas companies, serving almost six million utility and retail energy customers in fifteen southern states.
“I work with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies,” Gellner explains. “I provide support internally to Dominion’s natural gas businesses, interpreting what the regulations are asking them to do. I support our government affairs staff when new legislation is being introduced by determining how it will impact Dominion and if possible, finding and suggesting more workable alternatives. I also work with our legal staff to develop internal environmental policies. A huge part of what I do is communications,” she says.
Gellner is a native of West Virginia. She describes herself growing up as “a real science geek.” She attended West Virginia University (WVU, Morgantown), where she earned a BS in chemistry in 1997.
During her senior year, she taught recitation courses in chemistry, tutoring small undergraduate classes of ten to fifteen students. They reviewed the material they had learned in their regular classes, which were often held in large lecture halls with up to 300 students. “When I was a freshman, I attended those tutorials religiously,” Gellner says. “You could get questions answered and learn more than you could in the larger classes.”
An evolution in environmental awareness
National consciousness of the environment was growing in the 70s, but Gellner admits it didn’t play a part in her academic or early career choices. “Later on, I became more familiar with environmental engineering. But when I was in school, we didn’t have environmental engineering majors.”
After graduation, she got a job near Pittsburgh, PA with the Department of Engineering, Bureau of Mines, doing research on coal gasification. She later transferred to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA, Pittsburgh), where she was part of the Mine Emergency Operations team that responds to underground explosions and fires. She took advantage of the government’s continuing education program and, working nights and weekends, earned an MS in analytical chemistry from Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) in 1982.
In 1985, Gellner got married and accompanied her husband to South Carolina. She joined Venture Chemicals (Lobeco, SC) as a plant chemist, overseeing quality control for chemical manufacturing. “It was the first time I was engaged in environmental chemistry,” she says. “Lobeco is right on the coast and the company was involved in environmental permitting, wildlife impacts and environmental remediation activities at the facility.”
That year, her husband was transferred to the U.S. Navy base in Norfolk, VA, and Gellner joined Honeywell (part of Allied Signal) as a chemist. “At the time the fibers and chemicals division was headquartered outside Richmond, along with several manufacturing facilities that
produced nylon, polyester and Spectra fiber used to make bullet-resistant fabric. I was assigned to lead the environmental laboratory that supported all those facilities analyzing water, soil and air samples.”
A change of heart
“That’s when I decided I didn’t want to be a chemist anymore,” Gellner remembers. She went back to school nights and weekends and got her masters degree in environmental engineering in 1992 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg).
She was at Honeywell for twenty years, eventually becoming the leader of the environmental team for its performance fibers business unit.
In 2000, Gellner moved to a Honeywell corporate office in New Jersey. There she helped implement the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care program for the specialty material division.
“I wanted to move back to the mid-Atlantic area,” she says. “I found Dominion right here in my home state. I came to work at Dominion in 2005 as an environmental compliance manager. I managed day-to-day compliance tasks like obtaining environmental permits, filing reports and responding to information requests from the U.S. EPA and state regulatory agencies.”
She moved into her current role in 2010. Gellner is active with the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Gas Association and the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce. She is also involved with the West Virginia University Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program. “WISE supports female science and engineering students by funding their attendance at meetings to present their work and by helping to purchase lab equipment.”
Looking ahead, Gellner wants to get more involved in the natural gas industry in West Virginia. “What will this mean to both the state’s economy and to its environment?” she asks. “I became an environmental engineer because I wanted to make a difference in how we protect the environment, while realizing that we need to manufacture things that make our lives possible. Energy is a critical component of that whole equation.”
Dominion: now hiring
Dominion is currently looking for individuals with degrees and experience in the environmental sciences, according to Shannon Venable, vice president of staffing and diversity. “We continue to focus on attracting diverse candidates because diversity promotes the exchange of ideas in the workplace, supports collaboration and inspires innovation.”
Bethany Thompson: powerhouse manager at Eastman Chemical
Eastman Chemical Company (Kings-port, TN) is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of products found in end markets such as transportation, building and construction, and consumables. It serves customers in approximately 100 countries.
Bethany Thompson is a technical associate and B-325 powerhouse and coal management area manager on Eastman’s power department team. “This team is responsible for meeting the steam and electrical demand for the Kingsport plant site. We manage three powerhouses, a set of gas-fired boilers and a complex high-voltage distribution system.”
Thompson manages the operations and capital budgets for the area, and is responsible for providing leadership and direction, as well as “maintaining alignment with Eastman core values, and ensuring safe and reliable operation of the powerhouse and coal management process.”
Environmental compliance is an important aspect of the job, notes Thompson, as there are numerous environmental regulations and permits for this area.
Adjusting to her new place
Thompson took on her role in April and has four people reporting to her: a team manager, a staff engineer, an electrical technologist and a coal technologist. “The team manager has thirty-two operators reporting to him who are responsible for around-the-clock operation of the powerhouse.
“Because I am new to my position, I think my direct reports would say we are still in the process of becoming acquainted,” Thompson says with a smile. “I believe the employees who have operated the process for years understand it better than anyone. I like to utilize their expertise and suggestions for solving problems. Eastman’s culture is very collaborative, and I have seen that input from many people results in a much better solution.”
Steered to STEM, now steering others
Thompson grew up in Michigan. While she always liked math and science, she hadn’t heard of engineering until her high school teachers steered her in that direction. “Teachers, coaches, friends and relatives shaped my choices,” she says.
“This is why I’m pleased that Eastman encourages us to visit local middle and high schools during Engineers Week to teach students about engineering. We do a hands-on engineering task like building a straw tower or an air-powered rocket ship. It’s a fun day for both the engineer and the students.”
Thompson graduated from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) in 1989 with a degree in civil engineering with an environmental specialty. “I selected Purdue because it’s an excellent engineering school and also has a strong co-op program. I believe my work experience in college was instrumental to my understanding of the course material. It made a substantial difference while interviewing for jobs and definitely helped prepare me for my work at Eastman.”
A strategy for success
Thompson started at Eastman right after graduation. “I wanted to work for a large company that could provide the opportunity for movement to different areas as my interests evolved.”
In 1994, Thompson earned her civil engineering MS degree with an environmental emphasis from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg). “I found it challenging to work full time while taking classes. But the coursework kept my technical skills sharp.”
She is a member of the Eastman Professional Development Club, which promotes networking and information sharing to help business and technical employees take advantage of opportunities at the company.
“I enjoy working in operations and, because I have just recently been assigned to my present position, I expect that I will stay in this role for several years, long enough to make a contribution toward our continued success,” says Thompson.
Her advice for new engineers: seek variety in the work you do, and embrace projects as an opportunity to meet new people and develop new skills. “Early in my career, I didn’t realize the importance of some of the seemingly simple non-technical roles I held: officer in a professional organization or member of the company United Way team. Those opportunities exposed me to people I would not otherwise have met and helped me develop team skills that have served me well.”
Diverse perspectives are key to success at Eastman
“When people with different points of view engage in purposeful conversations, the result is fresh ideas that can power growth and success,” believes Perry Stuckey, who is Eastman’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “We believe it’s important to create an inclusive, global culture where people can show up and do their best work while building a career and making a difference. Eastman people and the diverse perspectives and experiences they contribute are the key to our success.”
Espiridion Evangelista works on global projects for Bechtel
“When I was in college, I was still exploring,” remembers Espiridion Evangelista. “I wasn’t sure of my career path.”
That path became more clear after he joined Bechtel Corporation’s Oil, Gas and Chemicals business (Houston, TX) in 2006. After a six-month assignment in the U.S., Evangelista started his tenure as a field cost engineer working in Malabo on Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea. “We were working on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant,” he says. “The international teams that Bechtel puts together are very diverse. I was working with engineers from Chile and elsewhere in South America as well as people from the U.K., Australia and South Africa.”
Today, Evangelista is a financial supervisor and senior project controls engineer working on the Wheatstone LNG plant, a $12 billion project in Onslow, Australia, scheduled for completion in 2017. “Bechtel designed the project in 2010 and started construction in 2012. My role is to control the cost of the project, and my time is divided between interfacing with our client and managing our deliverables to them. We budget scope of work into various accounts, forecast and report the value of work done, issue quarterly project financial reports, and document costs resulting from scope changes.”
Five people report to Evangelista. They are engineers who issue monthly and quarterly reports, handle change management, and upload and check the data the project generates. Evangelista notes that it’s hard to work on a project with a deadline so far out because it gives the client the feeling they have a lot of time to make changes without realizing the big impact they may have on cost and schedule.
Strategic educational choices
Evangelista was born in Arizona, but his family moved to Mexico for ten years before returning to the United States. He earned a BSE in chemical engineering from the University of Arizona (Tucson) in 2003, and followed it up with a 2006 BSE in industrial engineering from Arizona State University (Tempe), graduating cum laude.
This May, he received his MBA from Rice University (Houston, TX) with an emphasis on finance and corporate strategy. “My goal is to be an operations manager in my current line of work,” says Evangelista. “That means running a refinery or a specific business line related to LNG or chemicals. To get to that point, I need to have an understanding of the business.
“The technical background is essential too, because I need to understand what’s happening on the ground at the plant or the refinery. I want to remain on the technical side but work more in business development and operations.”
While he was at the University of Arizona, he interned at Intel and Honeywell, but the experiences were not the right fit for him. “I was working in labs at manufacturing plants and it was a very secluded environment. I wanted to interact with people.”
During grad school, Evangelista worked as an engineering and productivity consultant with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in Tempe, providing energy and productivity assessments to small manufacturing businesses to help them cut energy and manufacturing operating expenses. After two years, wanting room to grow beyond DOE’s Arizona and Nevada footprint, he applied online to Bechtel. “I received a call the very next day,” he smiles. “I came to Houston for the interview and was hired within a few weeks. Six months later, I was in Guinea. It was my first international assignment and it would never have happened anywhere else.”
More promising projects at Bechtel
Evangelista is treasurer of the Bechtel global stewardship advisory council. Formed in 2012, its mission is to plan, develop and implement companywide processes to improve and streamline the company’s relationships with the communities in which it works.
He has been working on the Wheatstone project for the past four years and is being rotated to a new assignment this summer. “I see a lot of opportunities here at Bechtel,” Evangelista says enthusiastically, “and I want to play a key role in the company.”
Lisa Popovics directs chemical and environmental services at PGW
When Lisa Popovics returned to Philadelphia, PA after eleven years of work and school in Alaska, she didn’t expect to be there long. In fact, she still owns a few acres of property outside Fairbanks.
Since 2010, Popovics has been director of chemical and environmental services at Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW, Philadelphia). PGW provides natural gas service and energy solutions to more than 500,000 residential and commercial customers.
Popovics’ parents came to the U.S. from Hungary and Finland. She and her brother are first-generation Americans, and traveled a lot growing up. In addition to Alabama, her family lived in Arizona, Saudi Arabia and parts of Eastern Europe.
Her father was a professor of civil engineering at Drexel University (Philadelphia). Her brother received a degree in civil engineering from Drexel, but Popovics didn’t think it was for her.
“I wasn’t interested in going to Drexel,” she remembers, “but my dad was pretty savvy. He said to go for the free undergraduate degree because there’s always funding for masters-level pursuits if you do well academically. I saw pretty quickly that Drexel was a good education and you can’t beat free,” she smiles.
Popovics received her degree there in 1987, but not in technology. “I got a bachelors in design,” she explains, “working in architectural and interior design. It was a reflection of my lifelong interest in the arts.”
From there, she received a scholarship to attend Rochester Institute of Technology (NY), where she earned a 1990 master of fine arts degree in fiber, textile and weaving arts.
The Alaskan experience
In 1990, she moved to Fairbanks. “It was a summer opportunity to work at Denali National Park and Preserve and I fell in love with the place. There is a very active arts and crafts community up there,” she explains. “I was teaching and working seasonally as a seamstress, but there was so much opportunity to work in the environmental sciences at national and state parks, as well as agency and consulting work.”
She attended the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, where she earned her masters of science in 1999 in natural resource management, specializing in soil science. “My graduate work was in watershed research out of Denali. It was a nice opportunity to study water and soil chemistry in an integral ecosystem. It was all about how a healthy, productive watershed supports the primary and secondary productivity of a stream.
“It was interesting to come back to Philadelphia and apply the same principles,” she says.
Family issues brought Popovics back to Philadelphia in 2002 and she landed a job with Weston Solutions, Inc (West Chester, PA) as an environmental scientist. “The mid-Atlantic area has an industrial history in which there weren’t environmental laws or good health and safety practices,” Popovics explains. “A lot of sites have contamination legacies that take a long time to clean up.”
At Weston, she did groundwater and soil sampling, well installation oversight, and database management. Technical writing included reporting for environmental site assessments, site-specific health and safety plans, submittals for federal regulatory permits, and summaries of local, state and federal record reviews.
Popovics joined PGW in 2004 as an environmental analyst doing much the same kind of work. “We were addressing environmental concerns at manufacturing gas plants that were no longer operating. The plants had used the old industrial-era practice of manufacturing natural gas from coal rather than importing it as we do today.”
In 2010, she was promoted to her present position. She works on a seven-person team that oversees planning, implementation and maintenance of PGW policies and procedures to ensure safe working conditions and compliance with environmental safety and regulatory requirements for air, water, soil and environmental health.
“I’m more on the oversight and management side than in hands-on fieldwork,” Popovics admits. “I was very hands-on my first six years here, and when they asked me to take the director’s position, it took me a while to become an effective manager because I had to let go of the work. I had had ownership of some sites since my time at Weston.”
Giving back and moving forward
Popovics is a member of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals (Fort Washington, PA). Internally, she is part of the PGW technical association, an internal group of scientists and engineers that works in the community and does STEM tutoring. She is also part of the PGW green team, which increases public awareness of recycling and sustainability practices.
Engineer Samantha Furtado finds her fit at Nexen Petroleum
Samantha Furtado’s original ambition was to go to medical school. She excelled at math and science, particularly biology. But during college she found that she enjoyed chemical engineering, and earned her BSChE in 2009 from the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada).
“My degree is in chemical engineering with a minor in petroleum. I added the minor because I wanted to work in the oil and gas industry,” she says.
Even before graduation, she got valuable experience during a sixteen-month internship with Nexen Energy (Calgary, Alberta). Nexen, a wholly owned subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corporation Ltd, operates as an independent global energy company in areas including the U.K., the North Sea, offshore West Africa, the United States and Canada.
During part of her Nexen internship, Furtado was a reservoir engineer and worked on Nexen’s Yemen assets. “My job during this time was to work with a team that determined new strategies to optimize our assets in Yemen. While I never went to the Middle East, a lot of my time was focused on what we could do to get more oil out of the ground over there.”
New grad program offers a bit of everything
After she finished her internship, Furtado joined Nexen’s new graduate program, which allows new grads to work on a variety of projects and learn from leaders in the energy industry.
“When I started, I was a reservoir engineer in training and worked in the heavy oil group in Saskatchewan,” Furtado says. In 2010, Nexen sold those assets, and Furtado moved to the oil sands team as a production engineer. “When I first joined the group, I was involved in the day-to-day operations of our oil-sands wells. My role focused primarily on short-term optimization strategies: for example, making sure the right amount of steam was injected into our wells.”
In 2012, Furtado had the opportunity to focus on long-term strategic thinking in the oil-sands group as a reservoir engineer. “This position requires more forecasting and future planning,” she says. “I watch how the wells are communicating with each other and determine when more wells need to be drilled. There is a lot more project management work involved in this role. We have to be concerned with how to optimize the entire reservoir, not just one well.”
Aiming for leadership
Furtado is a member of the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. She is excited about her career prospects at Nexen.
“Eventually, I’d like to move into a leadership role. In the meantime, I need to make sure I have the correct technical skills to get there.”
Furtado is effusive about Nexen and its people. “They are amazing people,” she says. “Everybody has the same belief system. They’re people I would be friends with outside of work.”
Circe Starks provides compliance leadership at Southern Power
Southern Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company (Atlanta, GA), is a U.S. wholesale energy provider that meets the electricity needs of municipalities, electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities. It owns and operates seventeen facilities in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas.
As the company’s environmental affairs manager in the compliance and external affairs department, Circe Starks works as part of a five-person team that performs due diligence on potential new projects and provides support to generation assets currently in service.
“I am responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that all Southern Power facilities and construction projects comply with environmental regulations. Another of my responsibilities is to evaluate potential new projects for environmental risks and be sure adequate resources are included in the project evaluation. And I manage compliance for our facilities during construction or acquisition of units.”
One of her recent projects was the Nacogdoches generating facility in Texas. Her team helped evaluate permits, developed a compliance matrix with obligations and due dates, provided environmental guidance reference materials, monitored emissions and submitted associated reports to the appropriate regulatory agencies. In addition, the team routinely assessed the site to ensure all environmental obligations were met.
This manager creates opportunities
Starks has five direct reports. “Each member has plants they are responsible for, based on the type of generating facility and the physical location of the site. Each of them is responsible for managing the environmental compliance obligations and responding to customer inquiries for the facilities he or she supports,” she explains. “Each team member is also the subject matter expert in a specific environmental area.”
Starks believes people learn by doing, so she tries to create opportunities that will build a strong and sustainable team. “My management style is to communicate a clear vision for my team, set clear expectations, provide them with the tools they need, and support and encourage them along the way. I believe they see me as a person who understands that having a robust process is just as important as delivering superior results. It is not just what you do, but how you do something.”
Role models: all in the family
Starks is from Bessemer, AL. Two people in her family had a big influence on her career. “My mother was my role model as a child. She took pride in her work as a registered nurse and demonstrated an excellent work ethic. She was focused on the needs of her patients and made tremendous efforts to ensure the service she provided was first class,” she recalls.
“My uncle is a retired nuclear engineer, and he served as a mentor for me. I always thought he was the smartest guy I knew. I was very impressed with his ability to troubleshoot issues and implement solutions.”
Starks went on to build her own impressive resume. She has a 2000 BS in chemical engineering and chemistry from Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL). She earned a masters degree in engineering management in 2002 from Christian Brothers University (Memphis, TN), and four years later, an MS in environmental management from Samford University (Birmingham, AL).
After graduating from Tuskegee, Starks began working for Procter & Gamble at its Pringles manufacturing plant in Jackson, TN. “I worked in technical engineering,” she recalls, “and later as a packing team manager in operations for the facility. I managed a team of about three dozen people and was accountable for packing production when my team was operating the line.”
Starks came to Southern Company in 2003 because it had a reputation for being a great place to work. She intends to take advantage of the company’s policy of encouraging employees to grow in their areas of responsibility and branch into new ones.
“I am open to many different ideas that will broaden my experiences in environmental responsibility and compliance work,” Starks says. “I am also open to a role that is different from environmental compliance, like finance, asset management, community relations or external affairs.”
Environmental engineer Alison Sparks works on big-picture projects at HNTB
“I really like design and problem solving,” enthuses Alison Sparks, “but I’m happier when I’m interacting with people and talking through things.”
Sparks is an environmental engineer/EIT with HNTB working in the Seattle, WA area. HNTB Corporation (New York, NY) is an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors.
“I have two different roles,” she says. “One of them is more concerned with environmental permitting. I deal with all kinds of issues from getting street use permits that allow our field workers to get data to support our design, to obtaining environmental permits to allow things like in-water work or mitigating impacts to critical areas like wetlands and streams.”
Continues Sparks, “On the other side, I assist with storm water and drainage design. Most of the focus lately has been on improving culverts where there is a fish-passage barrier to make that culvert fish-passable in accordance with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife guidelines.”
She’s currently working as an environmental engineer and the field work manager for sound transit for HJH Final Design Partners, an HNTB joint venture. HJH was formed to complete the final design for the extension of Seattle’s Link light rail, a seven-mile system that will go east from downtown Seattle to Redmond, and HJH is responsible for the portion from Bellevue to Redmond. It’s scheduled for completion by 2023. She too says that working on projects so far in the future can be a challenge. “But most communities have master plans, so projects like this help spur a lot of other improvements that they hope to make. We work very closely with them in this regard.”
The process for planning the rail location has been years in the making, she explains. “There was a preliminary environmental impact statement that analyzed different alternatives and all the pros and cons. These have to be reviewed, have public comments built in and then be approved by local jurisdictions. You can’t always have everything you want. We work to help minimize impacts.”
Dance, animals, then physics
Sparks is from Austin, TX. “When I was young, I loved dancing and animals and considered being a dancer or a veterinarian.
“I enjoyed physics in high school. My teacher said engineers use a lot of physics in their day-to-day work, so I thought I’d try that. I wanted to do something environmentally focused because I’m very interested in sustainability and preserving the environment. My family recommended Purdue because of its great engineering reputation.”
She earned a BS in civil engineering from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) in 2010. She did her first internship at CDM Smith (Cambridge, MA) in 2007. CDM provides water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities solutions for global clients. She helped with long-term control plan projects, conducted rainfall analysis, and assisted in modeling projects for the Indianapolis area.
Sparks also interned at HNTB in Indianapolis, on several water management projects. “The HNTB work I did included bigger-picture projects that were more interesting to me,” Sparks says. “It was a great fit.”
She managed and analyzed the rainfall data for a project in northeastern Indiana, provided supporting figures for reports and presentations using
ArcGIS, and assisted with the design of low-impact infiltration trenches for projects in the West Lafayette area.
Settling in Seattle
She joined HNTB in Bellevue, WA full time in 2011, two months after graduating from Purdue. “I had met my future husband during a study abroad trip in Germany, and we decided we wanted to move to Seattle. I asked about HNTB contacts in the area and it turned out that the Alaskan Way tunnel project was just starting up, and they needed help.”
Sparks worked with the environmental manager on that project. “I worked with our client, Seattle Tunnel Partners, on their permitting, compliance and other environmental concerns. Later, I focused on drainage design for the contractor.”
Since college, Sparks has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers. She also belongs to the American Society of Civil Engineers. She recently joined WTS, formerly the Women in Transportation Seminar, an organization that HNTB supports.
“Short term, my goal is to get that professional engineering license,” Sparks smiles. “Long term, I’d like to see what future projects are coming to this area. I’d like to help with low-impact design and eventually go into a managerial position that will let me push for those kinds of developments.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED COMPANIES EMPLOYING
ENVIRONMENTAL & CHEMICAL ENGINEERS
Check website for current listings.
|Company and location
|Bechtel Corporation (San Francisco, CA)
|Engineering, procurement and construction
|Dominion (Richmond, VA)
|Production and transportation of energy
|Eastman Chemical Company (Kingsport, TN)
|Global specialty chemicals
|HNTB (New York, NY)
|Employee-owned; infrastructure solutions
|Nexen (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
|Oil and gas, syncrude, energy marketing and chemicals
|Philadelphia Gas Works (Philadelphia, PA)
|Municipal gas distribution
|Southern Company (Atlanta, GA)
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