Outstanding Young Alumni
Established in 2003, the Outstanding Young Alumnus/Alumna award recognizes a graduate of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department under the age of 40 who has distinguished him or herself with outstanding service and contributions to the engineering profession and community. The nominee must have received a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin CAEE department and 40 years of age or younger by the application deadline. Please download a NOMINATION FORM if you would like to nominate a deserving colleague. The deadline for nominations is May 1, 2017. (The 2017 honoree will be announced in June.)
2016 Outstanding Young Alumnus John S. McCartney, PhD 2007
An associate professor in the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, John McCartney is a leader in unsaturated soil mechanics, geosynthetics and foundation engineering. He has integrated concepts from these areas to solve new problems encountered in thermally active geothermal systems. Based on a study of centrifuge-scale modeling of drilled shafts used as heat exchangers, he helped develop one of the first instrumented energy pile installations in the U.S. at the Denver Housing Authority Senior Living Center. Following this, he incorporated different types of energy piles into a new building at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
He is currently investigating the storage of heat collected from renewable sources (solar thermal panels) in borehole arrays in the vadose zone, and the incorporation of heat exchangers into geosynthetic-reinforced retaining walls. McCartney serves in leadership roles on a number of national committees and is the Editor of the Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering. He has also received the ASCE J. James R. Croes Medal and the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize.
2015 Outstanding Young Alumnus Gregory A. Kolenovsky, BSCE 1998
Greg Kolenovsky is Vice President of Trigon Associates, LLC, an engineering consulting firm based in New Orleans that he co-founded in 2009. As one of the owners, he is involved with many aspects of the business but primarily oversees project delivery and business development activities. Most of his professional experience has revolved around municipal infrastructure such as water, wastewater, drainage and roads in the US. He is also experienced with emergency management efforts, particularly disaster recovery and hazard mitigation projects related to infrastructure. Outside of the US, he has also worked on infrastructure projects in the Middle East and Haiti.
He enjoys teaching children about engineering by providing presentations and hands-on demonstrations at schools. And he frequently mentors civil and environmental engineering college students. Kolenovksy is also active in many professional organizations and has received numerous awards for community service activities.
2014 Outstanding Young Alumna Jessica D. Baker, BSCE 2004
Jessica Baker serves as the Water Resources Department Manager at Halff Associates in Richardson, TX, where she is involved in hydrologic and hydraulic studies and focuses on floodplain and stormwater management projects. Her team is focused on developing innovative solutions to solve complex flood problems for communities throughout Texas.Jessica has extensive experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) mapping programs, including the nationwide update of Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) and FEMA’s Risk Mapping Assessment and Planning (Risk MAP) program focused on delivering quality data that increases public awareness and leads to mitigation actions to reduce flood risks.
She serves as the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) Region VI Director on the national Board of Directors representing Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. She also serves as the Texas Floodplain Management Association (TFMA) Vice President. Through this role she teaches flood safety courses throughout Texas. She is passionate about the education of community officials, media, and citizens, and works to provide outreach and training to ensure that all communities understand the risks associated with flooding.
2013 Outstanding Young Alumnus Annika M. Bankston, MSEHE 1997
Annika Bankston, P.E. is Superintendent of Water Plant Operations & Maintenance for the Minneapolis Public Works Department and is responsible for the production and delivery of high quality drinking water for the city. After rising through the city’s public works management structure, she now oversees the operation and maintenance of Minneapolis’ water treatment plants, pumping stations, residuals processing, storage reservoirs, water quality laboratory, and other miscellaneous facilities. Within the Water Treatment and Distribution Services Division, she guides capital planning and the asset management program. Prior to joining the utility, Bankston was a Project Engineer at Malcolm Pirnie, where her work included membrane feasibility studies and pilot testing, and the design of a filtration plant upgrade. The City of Minneapolis employed this expertise to become one of the first US cities to install ultrafiltration membranes on a large scale in lieu of granular media filters into a water treatment process. Bankston was enlisted by the City to assist with this major change.
2012 Outstanding Young Alumnus Mark C. Waggoner, MSCE 1999
Mark Waggoner, P.E., S.E., P. Eng. is a Principal in the Research and Development Group at the Austin office of Walter P Moore. Following completion of his master’s degree at UT Austin, he was awarded a SOM Structural Engineering Traveling Fellowship to study aesthetically important structures in Europe. At Walter P Moore, he has focused on the design of long-span roof structures for stadiums and arenas, contributing to the design of ten major professional sports venues in the U.S. and internationally. He specializes in the design of kinetic structures and lightweight structural systems. Waggoner has served as President of the Austin Chapter of the Structural Engineers Association of Texas and as a director on the State Board. He is active in several committees of the Structural Engineering Institute of ASCE and served as co-chair for the 2009 Structures Congress in Austin. He is also actively engaged in research to develop new design techniques to mitigate disproportionate collapse. Throughout his career, he has maintained close ties with the department. He frequently works with structural engineering graduate students and is a regular contributor to experimental and analytical studies at Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory. He also served on the department’s External Advisory Committee.
2011 Outstanding Young Alumnus Michael Brack, BSCE/BA 1994, MSCE 1996
Michael Brack, P.E., serves as President of Datum Engineers, a structural engineering firm founded in 1937 with offices in Dallas and Austin. He joined the company after graduating from UT in 1996, and became a Principal in 2004. During his time at Datum, he has been responsible for a wide variety of projects spanning higher education, laboratory, healthcare, commercial, government, K-12, and residential. He was an early proponent of BIM and began implementing its use in 2006 with the $125M Experimental Science Building project for the University of Texas at Austin. Brack has served as President of the Austin Chapter of the Structural Engineers Association of Texas and as a director on the State Board. He also served as the President of the Austin Chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. He is a past member of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Council of Austin.
2010 Outstanding Young Alumna Andrea J. Schokker, Ph.D. 1999
Andrea joined the faculty at Penn State University in 1999 immediately after graduating from UT. In the fall of 2008, she moved to the University of Minnesota Duluth to start a new program in Civil Engineering as the founding Department Head. In its first two years, this successful program has attracted more than double the number of students expected as well as exceptional faculty and staff. Andrea’s research in durability of post-tensioned bridges has been implemented into several US codes and guide specifications. Andrea is also the author of a book on concrete sustainability that sold out shortly after release and is now in its second printing. She is currently on the American Concrete Institute (ACI) board of directors and was honored with the young member award for professional achievement. She was also named outstanding educator by the Post-Tensioning Institute and has won the American Segmental Bridge Institute leadership award.
2009 Outstanding Young Alumna Susana M. Hildebrand, MSEHE 1997
Susana Hildebrand is the Chief Engineer for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where she assesses environmental conditions and risks as well as implements programs that protect and restore air and water quality. She currently oversees a budget of $243 million and supervises over 300 staff, including engineers, toxicologists, and scientists. She previously served as Director of Air Quality for TCEQ and was instrumental in the development of a first-of-its-kind cap and trade program for highly reactive volatile organic compounds in Houston, which is the cornerstone of Texas' plan to improve air quality in Houston. She also oversaw state-of-the-art photochemical modeling that has made Texas a nationally recognized leader in the science of air quality improvement. Susana also gives back to her community by serving as the Chair of the Governing Council for NYOS, a K-12 public charter school whose mission is to build leaders to serve and succeed in a global society.
2008 Outstanding Young Alumna Valerie A. Briggs, BSCE 1997, MSE/MPAff 2000
Valerie Briggs is the Policy Program Manager for USDOT's Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) Research Program. The VII program is a cooperative effort among the U.S. Department of Transportation, state governments, the automotive industry, and others to develop and test an information infrastructure that uses advanced communications technologies to exchange real-time information both between the roadside and vehicles and among vehicles to improve safety and mobility. She has also consulted and conducted research in the areas of traffic operations, intelligent transportation systems, telecommunications, and transportation security. Briggs also believes in supporting her community and those in need. She teaches adult English-as-a-Second-Language and has fundraised for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the National Capitol Area in Washington, D.C. Since 2003, she also organized and ran a start-up non-profit organization that funds art education for disadvantaged youth in Africa and the U.S.
2007 Outstanding Young Alumna Melissa C. Seib Moran, MSCE 1992
After graduating from UT Austin, Melissa Moran joined the firm of Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., where she quickly became responsible for a host of complex drinking water projects, ranging from cutting edge ultraviolet disinfection applications to construction management of two drinking water reservoirs for a water treatment facility in San Diego, California. Moran also remained actively engaged in research activity as a project leader and manager for research funded by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Additionally, she has been heavily involved in the Society of Women Engineers, serving as President of the Central Indiana Chapter and helping to establish a college scholarship fund for women. In 2000, her technical skills and extraordinary leadership were recognized by Malcolm Pirnie, earning her an internal company award given to one of more than 1,400 technical staff who make “a significant contribution to safe-guarding human health and welfare/sustainability of the environment, or who has demonstrated excellence in pursuit of these goals." Moran, her husband Dan (MSCE 1992), and their two daughters are currently in San Marcos, Guatemala, where she is helping underprivileged communities develop alternative water supplies in the Rio Naranjo Watershed, which sustains more than 70 communities and some 340,000 people.
2006 Outstanding Young Alumnus Robert J. Frosch, MSCE 1992, Ph.D 1996
After completing his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Tulane University, Robert Frosch entered the structural engineering graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin, where his performance was exceptional. In 1994-95, during his studies, he received the highly-competitive NEHRP Graduate Fellowship from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. Shortly after graduation, he accepted a position at Purdue University, where he has received recognition for both his teaching and research. The American Concrete Institute has also recognized him by giving him the young member award for professional achievement and naming him a fellow. His work has been used in the formation of changes in the ACI Building Code. In addition, he has conducted pioneering work related to the use of alternate structural reinforcement such as glass and carbon fibers.
2005 Outstanding Young Alumnus Jeremy Semrau, BSCE 1988
After graduating with highest honors from UT-Austin, Jeremy Semrau went on to complete his master’s and Ph.D. degrees at the California Institute of Technology. The bulk of Semrau’s work had been to apply fundamental, cutting-edge molecular biology techniques to environmental engineering applications, such as environmental remediation and the understanding of the bio-availability of metals. He is currently an award-winning Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor at the University of Michigan and also has a joint appointment in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, to help develop its program on sustainability.
2004 Outstanding Young Alumna Heidi Westerfield Ross, BSCE 1991, MSCE 1993
Heidi Ross is the majority owner and principal of WHM Transportation Engineering Consultants, Inc., in Austin, which finds answers to transportation, traffic, and parking problems in the public and private sectors. Projects include network simulation models, traffic signal design, parking studies, traffic control plans, and traffic impact analysis studies. Ross has also served as a Travis County Commissioners Court appointed member of the Bond Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and she is a consultant in the redevelopment of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport. There are few women in her field, and Heidi hopes to serve as a mentor to others.
2003 Outstanding Young Alumna Elise Miller-Hooks, MSCE 1994, Ph.D. 1997
Dr. Miller-Hooks received her Ph.D. in Transportation and currently serves as an Assistant Professor at the A.J. Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. After graduating from UT, she was an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State University. While at Penn State, she received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development grant to develop the conceptual framework and algorithmic steps for real-time location and routing decisions for urban operations, which helped improve ambulance, fire, and police responses.