Topic Moderators

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Meet the ASCE Collaborate Topic Moderators

Topic Moderators add value to the discussion, increase the body of knowledge, and nurture the ASCE Collaborate Community. Find out a little more about them.

Kelly Farabee, P.E., PTOE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

I did not get to where I am today on my own. I think contributing to ASCE Collaborate is a great way to encourage other engineers or aspiring engineers. I also find that reading others’ posts can help me consider other perspectives. I think it is important to have dialogue with other people in order to understand other ideas better.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

Ask questions. Lots of questions.

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

My father was a mechanical engineer and always encouraged me to go into engineering as a child. Naturally, I didn’t really listen to my father. Eventually I settled on studying architecture at Clemson University. My brother planted the idea of pursuing a dual degree in architecture and civil engineering in my head. I ended up working on some research with one of the transportation/traffic professors and realized that I had an interest in traffic engineering – which I ended up pursuing in graduate school.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

I love the community of civil engineers. I also love working on traffic studies and working with clients to find solutions for their needs.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

I work on a lot of smaller projects, primarily traffic studies. It seems like there is always some kind of challenge in every project. Sometimes the challenge is trying to figure out exactly what the client needs, or trying to help them understand the project process. Sometimes it is a challenge to figure out how to model reality. Other times the challenge is in trying to figure out the best solution.

Dr. Andres Guzman, ING., M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

ASCE Collaborate is an excellent opportunity to share our knowledge with young and former engineers and also with colleagues around the world. We can talk not only about technical issues but also about our profession, including ethical issues.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

As a civil engineering professor, I always tell my students to dedicate their work to serve, to do everything in the right way. I also tell them to be involved in different activities (sports, music, arts, other disciplines) to increase their knowledge and acquire new points of view in facing the daily practice. 

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

I’ve always liked mathematics and physics. I like to know how everything works. Last but not least in importance, my university is the best in my home country (Colombia), and I wanted to learn and know with the best.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

I enjoy helping others with no reward in mind. I can design any structure I can imagine and watch how it grows when it is constructed. That is beautiful. 

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

Right now I am involved in a project (a concrete building to serve as an art school) that uses different design disciplines, and during construction all conditions changed (soils, materials). The project needs to be verified for every new load that appears during construction.

Chad Morrison, P.E., M.ASCE


Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

Sharing ideas on professional practice, career paths, and technical knowledge provides an opportunity to learn and reflect on your own work.  It helps build communication skills and your professional network.  Serving the profession is a means to build public trust and elevate its standing among others.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

Listen to those who build and learn from them. 

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

My grandfather was a carpenter.  He told me, “Work with your mind, not your hands.”

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

The best part of being a civil engineer is visiting the project site.  During construction it is fun to get a behind the scenes look on some impressive works. When a project is completed, it is great to see everyone bustling around the building and being able to show my friends and family the work my team has done! 

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

Miscellaneous steel items for Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University were some of the most challenging that I have completed.  They required original design work that needed to be coordinated with the design team, general contractor, and owner.  Items included a “floating” wall, oversized pivot doors, monumental stairs, acoustic wall supports, and catwalks.  I was able to provide creative solutions for connections to the superstructure, member sizing, acoustic isolation, and product selection. It was a difficult project at the time, but now I can see how much I learned from it.  Ask questions up front, but don’t be afraid to present your own solutions at the same time!

Jameelah Ingram, P.E., M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

ASCE Collaborate is a tool to engage with civil engineers around the world. Contributing to ASCE Collaborate allows me to build relationships and share knowledge with other engineers. I also gain advice, new perspectives, and an opportunity to enhance my writing skills.

As we serve the public through civil engineering, the works we create serve us in return. Therefore, contributing to the civil engineering profession is essential, and I enjoy playing my part.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

1) Join a Professional Association - Professional Associations offer ways to: engage in engineering outreach on a large scale and strengthen the pipeline of future engineers; develop connections with professionals locally and globally; and grow leadership skills.

2) Read Engineering Articles - Reading engineering articles is an excellent way to explore interests outside of the projects you are working on. The articles can give you a glimpse into other niches in the engineering industry. Online publications and industry magazines often provide insight for problems you are working to solve as well.

3) Ask Questions - If you reach an impasse in an engineering calculation, try asking questions. Prior to the conversation, be sure to do your research. Come prepared to show the ways in which you have already attempted to arrive at a solution.

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

I was inspired to study structural engineering by the infrastructure and architecture in my hometown of Chicago. I was captivated by soaring skyscrapers and beautiful bridges. My mother, who is a surreal artist, and father, a technical professional and U.S. Navy Veteran, greatly influenced my path. As a civil engineer, I also have the opportunity to help others reach the destinations most important to them.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

As a civil engineer, our projects are tangible. Our designs solve critical problems and create conveniences to improve quality of life. I enjoy the feeling of happiness that comes with seeing a project I have contributed to being constructed and ultimately used by the public.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

The most challenging project I have ever completed was a new six span pedestrian bridge across a busy interstate with spans up to 173 feet (approx. 53 meters). It was challenging because it was a project full of “firsts” for me. It was the first pedestrian bridge, the first prestressed concrete bridge, and the first bridge on the East Coast of the United States I had ever designed. I had to learn new standards and software programs. I also collaborated with a new group of engineers for the project. The challenges made the completion of the project even more rewarding!

Dr. Jesse Kamm, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

Engineering projects come in a wide variety. It’s important to know there are many experts within our community with specialized knowledge that are eager to engage and share expertise for those moments you need some focused advice. Newer engineers can tap into that resource through ASCE collaborate and ASCE Journals while more experienced engineers can contribute their valuable expertise into new areas of knowledge. Since no one is all-knowing, we need those intersections of finely tuned expertise to lead the profession into the future.

 What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

  1. Always consider “why” the project exists- Project stakeholders may be approaching decisions from very different perspectives and perhaps with competing goals of which you may not be aware.
  2. Evaluate solutions from the user’s/stakeholder’s perspective - It’s easy for engineers to see one solution as the best possible solution without seeing outside perspectives.
  3. Recognize your own biases (such as anchoring, availability heuristics, congruence bias, and many other cognitive bias) – Research has shown engineers (and people in general) make decisions in ways contrary to logic under very common scenarios. Learn when you may be experiencing such bias.
  4. Get the P.E. behind your name and find your niche in the marketplace. Don’t underestimate the value of the P.E. designation.

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

I love to create environments where people want to be. I believe there is an art to creating immersive environments, working within competing constraints, and using engineering to solve complex problems. Since my PhD and MS are within the construction and engineering management domain, I wouldn’t consider myself to be a civil engineer per se but as a construction engineering management professional I appreciate the unique contributions of all engineering disciplines. The world is a better place because of engineers.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

I enjoy creating the built environment and using technology and science to make things that were once only imagined.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

The most challenging projects involve multiple stakeholders with competing interests and varying degrees of cooperation. As an engineering manager my job is to keep the money and the information flowing so all the moving parts end in the correct place. As I’ve progressed through the ranks my day-to-day activities become far less technical (which of course is why I fell in love with engineering in the first place) and now involve working with budgets, contracts, engineering legal issues, and people management. At times it feels those challenges are much more difficult than solving a technical challenge.

Paul Lee, P.E., M.ASCE

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What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

I would tell them to definitely get involved with a professional organization. Whether it is ASCE, AAa/e, EWB, or Toastmasters there are dozens of groups out there. Your career is more than just your time in the office. It’s about networking and continued growth technically and professionally. Plus, it’s fun and full of great people.

Why did you become a civil engineer?

I became a civil engineer to make a positive impact on the world. I discovered that as a civil engineer I can make meaningful changes by tackling challenges like climate change. 

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

That part I love most about being a civil engineer is the variety of opportunities we have. As a civil engineer we’re exposed to almost every aspect of infrastructure. We get involved with the financing, politics, and engineering and not to mention all the other engineering disciplines that get roped into large scale projects. I find the ability to rally different groups of people together for a project the coolest part of being a civil engineer.

Stephanie Slocum, P.E., M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

When I first started working in the early 2000's, the internet was just taking off and discussion groups for civil engineers didn’t exist. I had to navigate many things on my own, especially nontechnical career development, because I didn’t have anyone to ask.

Through my contribution to ASCE Collaborate, I have the chance to help make sure other engineers have someone to ask, and to help them connect with other professionals. I’m particularly excited about the “Professional and Career Topics” forum, because of the focus on career development and work environments specific to civil engineers. It’s something I wish had been available to me early in my career.

An interaction with one mentor or one person can change the course of someone’s career. On ASCE Collaborate, my goal is to ask good questions to spark a dialogue between two people who may not have connected before.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

It is dangerous to ask this question of a woman who literally wrote a book on the subject. These days, I send people over to Amazon.com for my book, She Engineers or to my website, which is full of guidance for early and mid‐career engineers.

But if I only had 30 seconds, this is what I’d share:

Learn everything you can, ask for what you want, and always remember that engineering is a service industry that serves people. In practice, that means saying “yes” often. Yes to late nights learning new concepts, to doing what you need to do to meet every deadline every time, to volunteering in organizations like ASCE, and to things that will be uncomfortable at first – that first presentation at a township meeting, negotiating a raise, asking for help (and then asking several more times when you don’t get it the first time!), and talking with a stranger at a conference.

Why did you become a civil engineer?

I mentioned earlier that contributing to ASCE Collaborate was important because one interaction can change your life. That happened to me in college, and it’s the reason I became a structural engineer.

I was struggling with picking my college major – in my second year of college! – and had already switched from biochemistry to computer engineering (where I hated my C++ programming class). For exercise and stress‐relief, I often played tennis with a friend majoring in engineering. He came to play one day straight from his last class, and brought a miniature building model. I looked at the model and asked him in which engineering class he was building models. The rest you can say is history – I went into architectural engineering, and specifically structural building design. I’d always been fascinated by buildings (but do not consider myself artistic, thus ruling out architecture). I liked math, science, and writing. I didn’t realize you could combine them into a career until this one interaction opened my eyes.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

My top three are impact, collaboration, and problem solving. Check out this blog article for a deeper dive into those reasons, from when I worked as a design engineer and in my current role as an entrepreneur. 

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed? 

I have two. The first is completing and publishing my book, She Engineers. This was one of those projects I thought I might get to “someday” – like when I retired. But the universe had other plans. It was a reminder to me that you need to take a chance on new opportunities when they come, and that big dreams require big action.

The second is a building project called “Ship in a Bottle.” It’s actually one of the smaller projects I’ve completed in terms of total construction cost, but it was extremely challenging. It’s a project at Clarion University (in Pennsylvania), where we renovated Becht Hall. The building was made in the early 1900's. The structure was wood floor and wall framing with exterior masonry bearing walls, and was originally used as a dormitory. Existing drawings were not available, and we were changing the use to a student services center, which required an increase in the structural loads for the building. After reviewing many options over several years, the team determined that the inside of the building would be gutted – structure and all – to achieve the project goals. But, since the exterior of the building was historic, the exterior building shell was to be maintained. That meant we needed to figure out a way to entirely replace four stories of structure inside without demolishing the exterior roof and walls. This project was a fascinating lesson in existing conditions, constructability, and teamwork. Our new foundations and structural system were designed based first on the question “How do you build the new structure within the very limited space available?” The contractor had to work around the massive amounts of shoring required to support the walls and roof in the interim conditions. We even found unusual things during demolition, like a large tree trunk holding up the existing roof structure that needed to be replaced.

Click HERE for a construction time‐lapse video of the project showing the structure. It was taken by the contractor and demonstrates some of the complexities of the project.

Danielle Schroeder, EIT, A.M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

Civil engineering is arguably the oldest engineering discipline as well as one the most robust. As such, is it important for us to seek out diverse experiences throughout all phases of a project. As ASCE’s 2019 President, Robin Kemper, recently stated “Our field depends on diversity and inclusion because diverse teams with diverse thinking lead to creative and innovative ideas and better solutions to civil engineering problems.” With resources like ASCE Collaborate, it is easier than ever to be connected to other civil engineers across the world to share advice and reach our full potential as engineers and leaders!

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

I still consider myself as an early career professional, but I have learned so much since graduating in 2017. The best advice I can give any early career professional, is be willing to step out of your comfort zone and take on new tasks with an open mind. An engineering education is excellent for teaching you critical thinking skills and how to break down a problem, but you will still need to learn about your chosen field through experience at your job. Learning does not end with school.

For advice about starting your first job, I recommend reading the following article where I along with other ASCE members share extensive advice on the topic: https://news.asce.org/tips-for-starting-your-first-civil-engineering-job/

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

I became an engineer because I wanted to focus on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our current infrastructure, as it is the backbone of America. In my current job, I do just that as my focus is in bridge retrofit, reconstruction, and inspection. I enjoying making a difference - in my community, in my profession, and for humanity in general which is what the engineering profession is all about.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

As a Civil Engineer, I enjoy that every day I am tasked with a different problem to find a solution to. I also greatly enjoy paying it forward and frequently volunteer at outreach events to teach kids as young as kindergarten how awesome my profession is. Through my job, I focus on rehabilitating the physical structures of our past and through my outreach volunteering, I get the opportunity to inspire the minds of our future.

Yance Marti, M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

ASCE Collaborate seems to be a good way to engage engineers across the country and the world with some of the more important issues affecting the profession. There are many different viewpoints with engineers of varying background and this offers an opportunity to work together to find answers or share ideas. Collaborate offers the possibility to get immediate answers and feedback for many problems.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

It is very important to network and get to know other seasoned engineers. This is a great way to become known and learn of other opportunities. It is also important to learn about the other branches of civil engineering. Cross-training is very important especially for engineers working in public works. Attend conferences and take sessions to learn something that isn’t your specialty. Many projects we work on are collaborations across branches and disciplines so the more that an engineer knows, the better prepared they are to understand how to coordinate multi-disciplinary projects.

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

I grew up next to the construction of a multi-year interstate highway project. It was literally in my backyard. It was fascinating to watch this large public works project and seeing the transformation stuck in my head. After high school I became a survey technician and knew that I wanted to continue in the profession working on public works projects. I completed my Bachelor’s degree and moved on to bigger things.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

Problem solving. Most problems encountered need to be solved quickly and cost effectively. It helps to see and analyze failures to know how to avoid them in the future. Knowing the causes of problems in advance helps an engineer get data to help them design a perfect project.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

My first big project was as the project manager on the reconstruction of a major 12 block urban street in Racine, WI. It took two years to complete and required coordination with many residences and businesses. I learned everything from utility coordination, dealing with other public agencies to scheduling and meeting deadlines. It was a challenging first project that taught me most of what I know.

Julian Valencia, A.M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?
Engineering teaches you problem-solving skills. These skills can be applied to other fields and phases in you life and that is what makes engineering important. I believe that by contributing to the civil engineering profession, especially in the younger generation, I will be making people more capable of solving difficult situations no matter if the situation is personal, work related, school, or just social life.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?
Network, Socialize, learn how to speak in public, be more active in ASCE. We civil engineers tend to be shy, including myself, but the truth is that we need to take the fear and transform it into courage and became better leaders.

Why did you become a civil engineer?
I don’t remember where I actually got the idea to be a civil engineer. I believe it was more like a combination of likes and events. When I was a kid I loved drawing maps, and I believed that I would love to work with maps. I was also good with numbers and I loved playing with dirt. When I finished my Associate of Science I got a job at a civil engineering firm and from there was just a continuous effort to become a civil engineer.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?
The people I get to work with. We are problem solving people and we love to get ideas on how to solve a problem. I love being able to share my ideas and to listen to everyone else's ideas. I really enjoy how you can have several paths and the same result and the process to eliminate and pick the best option.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?
The relocation design and construction of CenterPoint Energy distribution and transmission pipelines for the METRO Light Rail construction in Houston, Texas.  This project extended for several years and included several phases.

James Wang, R.ENG, M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?

From my personal experience I have learned a lot of knowledge in this online community as well as a number of insights from many civil engineers’ visions. Through interaction I hope that I can do my part to enlarge the body of knowledge in the civil engineering profession.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

I would list two. First, help improve their communication skills; second, advise on their career path and development.

Why did you become a civil engineer? 

Because I want to be a key player in terms of design, construction and management of civil engineering projects that are critical to people, community and society.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

Being a civil engineer, I most enjoy applying my knowledge, skill and attitudes into delivering sustainable infrastructure and buildings.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed?

I would say it’s a highway connecting two major cities in our province. We were one of the main contractors in that project.

Mitchell Winkler, P.E., R.ENG, M.ASCE

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Why do you think it is important to contribute to ASCE Collaborate and the civil engineering profession as a whole?  

The opportunity is twofold: 1) to help others develop their professional skills by sharing experience and to 2) create insight into challenging problems that can help others achieve their goals.

What advice do you often share with someone early on in their civil engineering career?

With the caveat that I’ve spent large part of my career outside of mainstream civil engineering, my advice to those early in their careers is to develop a deep technical competency before broadening.

Why did you become a civil engineer?  

I was attracted to civil engineering by the types of problems that civil engineers solve.

What do you enjoy most about being a civil engineer?

Being able to look at building or piece of infrastructure and having insight into how it was designed and constructed.

What is the most challenging project you have ever completed? 

Leading a multicompany team to achieve a common objective.  

*** Interested in being an ASCE Collaborate Topic Moderator? Contact Tirza Austin at taustin@asce.org.