ASCE MLAB 2020 Individual Awards
It is in an honor to have diverse and talented individuals within the Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch. The following people have contributed to their communities, their peers, and ultimately, the profession. Thank you to all the applied, as all of our achievements continue to further the quality of life here in Los Angeles. A special thank you to our MLAB Awards Chair, Paul Lee.
Outstanding Civil Engineering Student
Junco Nelson recently graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) with a B.S. in Civil Engineering with a construction emphasis, where she studied as a Presidential Scholar. She now works full-time as a project engineer with Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company. She was born and raised near Fort Myers, Florida, and moved to Los Angeles to start college in 2016.
During her time as President of USC ASCE, she spearheaded mentorship and service projects, notably participating in mentorship programs for college freshmen, high school seniors, and fifth graders. She held positions on USC’s executive board for three years, starting as secretary, then PSWC chair, and finally president. One of the main goals of her presidency was to increase involvement with LA YMF. The pinnacle of her leadership at USC was planning and coordinating High School Day along with LA YMF as part of Engineers Week 2020. Over 120 local students and teachers came to USC for hands-on learning, speakers, and an engineering club fair. The event involved seven months of planning, numerous meetings with USC offices, contacting professors to speak, collaborating with other engineering clubs, and organizing approximately twenty volunteers from USC and LA YMF.
Throughout her time in school, Junco has shown her dedication to ASCE by attending two national conventions, three Pacific Southwest Conferences, and numerous YMF and MLAB events. She encourages USC students to attend LA YMF events and utilize their valuable resources, leading to a steady increase in USC attendance in events. This year, USC saw a large increase in MLAB scholarship applications and recipients.
Junco shows a passion to be involved. She collaborated with University Outreach Chairs to host LAYMF events on USC’s campus. Through her hard work this year to establish close connections within the LA Section, USC ASCE will be better equipped to take on the challenges of the 2020-21 school year.
Outstanding ASCE Practitioner Advisor
Claris Rivera is a Civil Engineering Associate at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. She graduated from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. As a freshman, she first became involved with ASCE through the student competitions and eventually got involved with CSUN ASCE’s board by becoming Fundraising Chair, Secretary, and President during her four years at CSUN.
With all of Claris’ ASCE student experience, she quickly knew after graduation that she wanted to give back to the students and share everything that she had learned, so she joined ASCE LA YMF as a University Outreach Co-Chair. As a Co-Chair, she was able to organize social and professional events that helped students grow their network and learn more about our civil engineering profession. Claris also started getting involved with MLAB and became the Student Activities Chair to help bridge the gap between the Branch and student chapters. She was further able to connect with her alma matter by serving as one of the CSUN ASCE practitioner advisors. At the society level, Claris serves as a member for the Committee on Student Members which oversees all of the ASCE Student Chapters across the globe.
Outside of ASCE, Claris is also involved with the Asian American Architects and Engineers (AAa/e) Foundation, where she currently serves as the Secretary and Scholarship Chair. As Scholarship Chair, she is responsible for the scholarship and grant program, where over $45,000 of scholarships and grants are awarded to individuals all over the country. In 2019, she served as Student Outreach Co-Chair where she coordinated networking and professional development events for students and young professionals.
Claris hopes to continue sharing her insight and inspiring the next generation of civil engineers!
Outstanding ASCE Younger Civil Engineer
Kevin Woods, PE
Kevin Woods is a Principal Engineering Assistant at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works where he has worked for over 6 years. He has had opportunities in a wide variety of civil engineering projects. He has been engaged in easement vacations, water system upgrades & plan check, water quality projects, and traffic operations and maintenance projects.
He has made a major impact at the County, saving them over $1.5 million on upgrading highway safety lights as well as assisting in writing the scope of work for the acquisition and management of about 40,000 streetlights that will also be upgraded to LED's and save the County and its constituents a lot of money. In addition, Kevin has become an outstanding leader as he has started to manage one employee and several student workers. He aims to inspire them and ensures that they fully understand the scope of work and why things are done a certain way. His passion is inspiring and noteworthy of a young engineer on the rise.
Outstanding Civil Engineer in Public Sector & Outstanding Civil Engineer in Emergency Response
Brian Phan, PE
Brian Phan is currently a Transportation Engineer Associate for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Brian has been involved in ASCE since college and has continued his ASCE involvement by holding multiple board positions throughout his career and is now the President of the ASCE LA YMF chapter. In 2020, Brian was recognized by ASCE as one of the “New Faces of Civil Engineering”.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Brian coordinated and organized a project at the start to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care professionals. Brian founded Shields for Nurses with a mission to supply as many hospitals with protective face shields, and quickly fundraised over $20,000 and purchased multiple 3D printers to create protective face shields. In doing so, Brian and the Shields for Nurses team were able to produce over 5,000 face shields and donate to over 120 hospitals in the Southern California area.
Continuing his emergency response efforts, Brian also worked as a traffic control engineer to assist with containing the Getty Fire back in 2019. Engineers for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation receive secondary training to become emergency response workers when disasters arise in Los Angeles. Not only were they responsible for designing plans to effectively evacuate civilians, but Brian was also an active engineer who assisted with physically setting up temporary traffic street closures by implementing barricades, cones, and closures. In these type of environments, Brian had to work very closely with the Los Angeles Fire Department as well as the Los Angeles Police Department. As these fires burned for many days, Brian was active during all hours of the day and night to ensure all traffic control measures are properly implemented to safety evacuate the local residents.
He has always been active in helping my community and primarily focused on inspiring students to pursue a field in STEM. He always likes to promote, "Help someone be a better person than yourself." As engineers, he believes we owe it to society to be strong community leaders and role models. As K-12 outreach Chair for his local ASCE Chapter, he had the opportunity to inspire over 3000+ students, visited dozens of schools, and started the first Civil Engineering High School Club in California. In addition, he had the honor to help coordinate ASCE annual Popsicle stick bridge competition for the past four years.
Outstanding Civil Engineer in Private Sector
Benjamin Baker, PE
For over six years, Ben Baker has worked Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors, the prime contractor, for the $2 billion 8.5-mile Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Crenshaw/LAX Corridor, to provide project engineering, construction management, and utilities coordination. This Metro Rail "K Line"" project is an 8.5-mile transit corridor aimed at improving mobility in Los Angeles by connecting the C Line (Green Line) in El Segundo to the E Line (Expo Line) in Leimert Park, while also finally connecting Metro's rail system to the Los Angeles International Airport via LAX's Automated People Mover project.
Ben reviewed construction drawings for constructability and conformance with specifications and standards. He managed subcontractors and led self-performed operations. He worked with the engineer of record, HNTB, to address comments from multiple agencies and utilities, including LACMTA, LABOE, LADWP, LABSS, LABSL, LADOT, LASAN, LACFCD, LADBS, LAWA, COI, CPUC, SCE, AT&T, SCG, etc. Ben managed various utility coordination efforts between LACMTA, LADWP Water, and LADWP Power, while also working with City of LA Bureau of Engineering representatives to work toward resolution of design and construction issues. He led internal civil discipline meetings to resolve roadblocks, keep track of progress on action items, and set new goals. The project is successfully within safety targets. Currently, trains are being tested in the systems integration and final paving closeout phase.
Outstanding Civil Engineer in Community Service
Meghrie Demirdjian, PE
Meghrie Demirdjian is a Civil Engineering Associate at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). She has worked on a myriad of innovative projects in the Power System Structural Engineering Design group, where she assisted in numerous renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement projects, such as battery energy storage, solar panel installations, and aging infrastructure replacement programs. These projects play a fundamental role in the City of Los Angeles’ goal to achieve a 100-percent renewable energy supply and LADWP’s mission to continue to provide reliable service to customers. Meghrie recently transferred to the Water System Project Management Office. The projects she manages aim to renovate existing water operations yards to comply with current codes, achieve seismic resiliency, improve facility ergonomics, and increase operational efficiency in an effort to help recycle 100-percent of Los Angeles’s wastewater by 2035.
Meghrie’s interest in engineering sprouted in high school when she competed in the 2009 Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition and discovered the vital that role civil engineers play in everyday life. Her passion fuels her drive to make the engineering profession an attractive and accessible field for minorities and members of under-served communities. She has coordinated several Girl Scouts and K-12 Outreach events through which she has introduced the STEM field to hundreds of students. At work, Meghrie is currently aiding in the development of STEM kits for schools that will be used by teachers to demonstrate basic principles of engineering, as well as spark interest in the profession at a young age.
Through the American Society of Civil Engineers Los Angeles Younger Member Forum (LA YMF), Meghrie has been able to support with major events such as the annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition, LA YMF Student Night and Job Fair, Women in STEM Camp, and Engineers Week. Her passion for engineering has allowed her to inspire hundreds of students to pursue careers in STEM, as well as acquire a higher education, apply for scholarships, and join professional organizations. Meghrie was the 2020 Chair for Engineers Week – a week-long event where LA YMF introduces elementary, middle, and high school students to the exciting world of STEM and empowers the future generation of engineers. She is excited to keep the momentum going while taking on the role of Girl Day 2021 lead.
Outstanding Civil Engineer in Legislative Activities
Luis is an Associate Civil Engineer at m6 Consulting, Inc. has been a part of ASCE since 2013, when he joined the California State University, Northridge (CSUN) student chapter as a junior. He is an advocate for engineering and for increased participation in legislative activities. He has worked with ASCE to advance awareness of the Infrastructure Report Card in the public eye. This has included events with the public such as CicLAvia and events with government officials as Legislative Drive-In’s and the DC Fly-In.
Additionally, he strives to increase participation and awareness in the legislative activities around us. The desire to increase voter awareness started during his time at CSUN, where as the Associated Students Director of Elections he led a team promoting participation in both campus and local elections. While Steel Bridge project manager at CSUN ASCE, he recruited several student peers to participate at the LA City Hall Drive-In, helping them gain first-hand knowledge about how engineering and politics come together.
Outstanding ASCE YMF Officer & Outstanding Digital Influencer
Chloe Gharios is a civil engineering associate for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and is passionate about giving back to her community and inspiring the next generation. Chloe has been part of ASCE LA YMF for 5 years and has served in a multitude of roles. She is passionate about being a part of a group of engineers who are all so different and have so many different passions, but have a collective mission to make their communities and profession a better place. Through her work with LA YMF, Chloe has been able to reach thousands of students with Engineers Week, school visits, and starting the Women in STEM camp.
She has also recently begun working on the curriculum side by being a member of the West Adams High School Advisory Board, supporting their transition into becoming a STEM magnet. Chloe sees the value of social media and uses it as a tool to break stereotypes of women in STEM, primarily through her two Instagram profiles @chloetheengineer and @simplysteminist. Chloe hopes to continue to grow these communities and inspire women and students around the world to be exactly who they are while succeeding in engineering and STEM.
Outstanding ASCE Branch Officer
Dana Robertson, PE
Dana Robertson is currently the Secretary of the Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch and works as an Associate Civil Engineer at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. He has also previously held numerous positions within ASCE LA YMF. He has volunteered for numerous ASCE events throughout the year and also helped organize YMF events. This year, Dana took the initiative to create the MLAB mentorship program which has teamed up over 20 younger member mentees with more experienced Branch member mentors. Despite challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been very successful, with participants meeting virtually and creating strong relationships between younger members and branch members.
Outstanding Infrastructure Advocate of the Year
Joel Farrier, PE
With more than 30 years of experience, Joel Farrier is the Environmental Group manager for Burns & McDonnell in California, delivering resilient and sustainable solutions for critical infrastructure projects. Whether restoring a wetland or providing environmental compliance and sustainability support, Joel is focused on generating forward-thinking engineering, environmental, design and construction solutions for our communities.
Outside the office, Joel gives his time and talents to support Los Angeles’ economic and community development efforts. As a second generation Angeleno, Joel is a passionate advocate for Los Angeles and its future. He has directly managed businesses up to $280 million in revenue, implementing key sustainable and resilient initiatives for critical infrastructure projects.
He has applied his knowledge in international business and organizational structure to provide strategic growth advice to local small businesses for nearly two decades.
You will also find Joel volunteering at his church, teaching and mentoring our local youth. He is a board member for the Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the French American Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles. Additionally, he serves as an advisory member for the University of California, Irvine Division of Continuing Education.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Shahnawaz Ahmad, PE, F.ASCE
Shahnawaz Ahmad has a long history of services to ASCE, to the public works and engineering industry, and to other engineering organizations. For ASCE, he served as Region 9 Governor from 2008-2011 and as the President of the Los Angeles Section from 2003-2004. He has participated in several Infrastructure Report Cards for Los Angeles County and was on the Executive Committee for the 2018 California Infrastructure Report Card. He currently serves on the National Board of the American Public Works Association (APWA) as Region VIII Director, encompassing California, Nevada, and Hawaii. He was also President of the APWA Southern California Chapter and the ACEC Los Angeles County Chapter. He has been recognized numerous times by ASCE and other groups for his leadership capabilities. Mr. Ahmad is the president of SA Associates, a multi-service civil engineering firm that he established in 1989, providing water and wastewater engineering services to public agencies.