Engineers Do Make a Difference!

by Casey A. Moore, P.E. (CE ‘89)

Casey Moore, PECalling all Penn State engineering students, faculty, staff and alums: Let’s celebrate our profession, our accomplishments, and our contributions to society! Engineers in all fields of study play a significant role in our world and truly make a difference in people’s lives. We make the impossible, probable through innovation, creativity and problem solving.

National Engineers Week in the United States was founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951 and is celebrated annually the third full week of February – this year from February 16 – 22, 2014. The week, dedicated to all types of engineers, encompasses George Washington’s birthday, because he is often considered the nation’s first engineer and known for his work as a surveyor.

When Engineers Week, sometimes called Eweek, was formulated, its mission was to increase the understanding of, and interest in, engineering and technology careers and how they shape the world; helping students and adults alike discover engineering is its core theme. This week is a time for all engineers to call attention to, and demonstrate, the positive impact we have on the daily lives of most people. As engineers, specifically Penn State engineers, this is an excellent opportunity to act upon and communicate our passion for the profession. Sharing knowledge, experiences, and enthusiasm about engineering during this time helps us increase public awareness and brings technical vocations to life for students, educators and parents.

Eweek is a chance for engineers to participate in events aimed at informing educators, media and community leaders about our great profession and showing our commitment to service beyond self.

A coalition of engineering, education, and cultural societies, along with corporations and government agencies across the U.S. are at the core of making this Eweek a success. Some groups’ celebrations and activities during Eweek promote the importance of a technical education and a high level of math, science and technology literacy. Engineers volunteer their time to complete diverse, hands-on activities with students of all ages in order to motivate people to discover and pursue engineering or technology careers. Awards and recognition are frequently given at ceremonies and gala events, which helps to raise public awareness of the positive contributions that engineers make to our quality of life. The possibilities are endless in how the week is celebrated to show engineering pride!

The Penn State College of Engineering, and all its affiliated faculty, student groups and alums, could have widespread impact as leaders in creating, volunteering in, and promoting Eweek activities on and off university campuses, throughout the country and the world. On our campuses, a series of events could span the entire week to provide engineering students the opportunity to interact with other engineering students, faculty, and company representatives in both a professional and social manner, to educate the public about engineering, and to provide service to the community. With more than 10,000 undergrad and graduate students in its engineering programs, a faculty & staff of over 300 people supporting and educating students in engineering, and more than 90,000 alumni living and working around the world, Penn State can – and should – continue to make a difference.  After all, our College of Engineering programs rank 19th (undergraduate) and 25th (graduate) out of all accredited universities nationally (U.S. News & World Report, October 13, 2013). With all of the diverse and excellent representation that Penn State has in the profession of engineering or technical trades, we should not only make Eweek special, but also make a year round commitment to making a difference. Let’s commit ourselves, and those engineers around us, to making it happen.

The following website can be used as one resource for getting anyone started, or to see what may be going on during Eweek near you – or to see how you can contribute to our profession, visit the DiscoverE website.

Casey Moore is a Vice President and Principal of McMahon Associates, Inc. with executive management responsibilities for the firm. He is one of six of the firm’s Board of Directors and a registered professional engineer in five states. As regional manager, he is in charge of nearly $10 million in annual revenues and 70 people in the firm’s seven Mid-Atlantic regional offices, and also serves as a Senior Project Manager of the firm for client project work. He is a 1989 graduate of Penn State’s civil engineering program with a transportation and construction management focus.

 Mr. Moore is past president of the Mid-Colonial District of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. His professional service has been recognized with numerous awards including the 2010 Peter P. Quinn Leadership Award from GVF Transportation Management Association and the 2002 Young Engineer of the Year Award for the State of Pennsylvania from the PA Society of Professional Engineers.

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It’s always 65 degrees at the Eco-Machine

Rachel Brennan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, back, shows Ozgul Calicioglu, a new doctoral student in her research group, how to clear out the duckweed in one of the Eco-Machine's ponds.

Rachel Brennan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, back, shows Ozgul Calicioglu, a new doctoral student in her research group, how to clear out the duckweed in one of the Eco-Machine’s ponds.

On a campus where everything’s draped in white, there are precious few spots where greenery can be found.

One of those places is the Eco-Machine , an artificial wetland laboratory sheltered in a greenhouse south of Medlar Field just off Porter Road.

Run by Rachel Brennan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, the Eco-Machine is designed to clean wastewater through the use of natural ecological processes.

Only a handful of plants occupy the 540-square-foot facility during the winter. Once spring arrives, the Eco-Machine will be teeming with more life.

Only a handful of plants occupy the 540-square-foot facility during the winter. Once spring arrives, the Eco-Machine will be teeming with more life.

Employing various plants and organisms, Brennan’s Eco-Machine replicates the biofiltration process that removes pollutants in wetlands.

Brennan explained that during the winter, many of the plants in the Eco-Machine go into a ‘resting phase’ where they don’t grow much, but the microorganisms in the system still keep the water quality high. Since the system contains so many living organisms, the machine can’t just switch off.

Inside the greenhouse, it’s a balmy 65 degrees and the vibrant colors of the resident Black Magic Taros and Water Callas are a stark contrast to the blanket of snow outside.

“I reduced the temperature over winter break to help conserve energy, but the plants really didn’t like it,” Brennan stated.

Water callas are among the few plants that live at the Eco-Machine facility year-round. Brennan's team stops by the greenhouse every few days to check on the plants.

Water callas are among the few plants that live at the Eco-Machine facility year-round. Brennan’s team stops by the greenhouse every few days to check on the plants.

She said the plants that are currently in the greenhouse are just a small part of the Eco-Machine. Once the weather gets warmer, the roughly 540-square-foot facility will spring to life with more than a dozen tropical plants to enhance the filtration work.

Until then, Brennan and her team will continue visiting the machine every few days to check on things.

“Every week, this place needs some minor maintenance like trimming the plants.”

And because the relatively warm environment can be a haven for bugs, her team keeps vigilant for unwanted pests.

“Earlier in the winter, we had a bit of an aphid problem because we can’t open the windows, so they tend to multiply,” Brennan said. To solve the problem, she purchases ladybugs to keep the aphids in check without the use of pesticides.

On this particular day, she’s introducing Özgül Çalicioglu, a Fulbright Scholar from Middle East Technical University in Turkey who just started her doctorate in Brennan’s group this semester, to the facility.

Brennan shows Çalicioglu how to scoop out duckweed from the artificial ponds. She explains that the emerald plant does a fantastic job of trapping nutrients in water.

The environmental engineer thinks that duckweed’s nutrient-trapping ability could be used to prevent runoff into waterways and potentially serve as a substitute for chemical fertilizers.

“Using duckweed in this capacity hasn’t been studied very much,” Brennan said. She said she hopes to test duckweed as a fertilizer substitute in the nearby community gardens this summer.

After Çalicioglu finishes cleaning the duckweed out of the ponds, the two head back to campus, but will check back again in a few days.

“It really just takes care of itself,” Brennan said. “It’s great.”

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Inside the Recruiter’s Mind…5 Need-to-Knows for Students

by Jonathan U. Dougherty, PhD (’99 AE, ‘06g)

Dr. Jonathan DoughertyFor students, career fairs represent dichotomy in action – intimidating and exhilarating – as you try to navigate the maze of company booths, make a good first impression, land that interview, and hope your efforts result in an internship or full-time job. I can tell you from over a decade of firsthand experience, those same feelings of intimidation and exhilaration are felt by recruiters. Now, don’t get me wrong, recruiters have the peace of mind knowing that they already have a job – something you, as students, are urgently searching for…mostly to please your Mom and Dad. Take it from the guy who spent 12 years at Penn State, college is probably the greatest time of your life so you are probably not in a rush to leave Happy Valley! But I digress…

Let’s take a journey inside the mind of the recruiter (with the caveat that not all recruiters are created equal and the reflections in this blog are not necessarily representative of all recruiters’ perspectives). For as much as you may think that finding an internship or permanent placement is a chore, I can tell you recruiting is a tough job also. Think about it, these folks, who are not always HR professionals, are coming to college campuses to find their future colleagues and company leaders, all while considering the perceptions and expectations of current company management, culture, and most importantly, their personal reputation. Companies spend, on average, one to one-and-a-half times a person’s annual salary to replace an exiting entry-level employee. That means that if those new hires don’t work out and leave the firm, management sees dollar signs walking out the door, and the recruiter may see their reputation depreciate at the company.

Because company culture is such a prevalent issue, whenever I am recruiting I’m looking for the intangible quality that cannot be defined in a rubric or on a sliding scale: Fit. For me and many others, fit trumps GPA and is held in the same regard with relevant work experience and leadership/community involvement.

Here are a few questions related to fit that may be going through the recruiter’s mind:

  • Would I want to have this person in my home for dinner?
  • Would I want to sit next to this person for six hours of business travel?
  • Would I want to work for/with this person?

I want to stress here that academics are very important, but most good recruiters have done their homework on universities and specifically programs and departments where they actively recruit. They know the caliber of students who graduate from the rigorous Penn State engineering program, and that is why our University is consistently ranked so highly by recruiters – Penn State graduates are in demand! I mention this because in many instances academics are not the key differentiator; you need to find meaningful differentiators through work experiences, leadership roles, community service and outreach, and thoughtful relationships with the recruiter and company.

While the job of the recruiter is not easy, it can be very rewarding and fulfilling. Being able to interact with, mentor, and positively influence the future leaders of our industries and society is an awesome responsibility and one that good recruiters enjoy – and it is honestly one of the best parts of my job.

So, what are the 5 Need-to-Knows about networking with recruiters?

  1. How you are perceived to fit into the organization may very well trump all your other amazing traits, including high GPAs.
  2. Recruiters know the territory and they know the caliber of the candidate they are looking for to fill the role.
  3. Be authentic in your approach. This will go a long way in developing a relationship with a recruiter, and when you have developed a good rapport with a recruiter, it is a lot harder for them to turn you down!
  4. Recruiters love the Penn State College of Engineering and hiring its graduates. Your Nittany Lion pedigree will likely cut through the clutter of other candidates but it’s up to you to show that you live up to that reputation.
  5. Recruiters have a tremendous task of finding future leaders for their organization, but at the end of the day they are real people and are usually pretty interesting if you get to know them.

Good luck in your career search!

We Are…Penn State!


Dr. Dougherty is director, corporate knowledge center for James G. Davis Construction Corporation, Rockville, MD. In this role, he leads the corporate education and knowledge management initiatives of the corporation. An award-winning teacher, Dr. Dougherty served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Building Construction at Virginia Tech and is an invited guest lecturer at several universities.

Dr. Dougherty received his B.A.E. from Penn State and continued his academic career at Penn State and earned his Ph.D. in architectural engineering. Prior to joining Davis, Dr. Dougherty taught for six years in the architectural engineering department at Penn State.

He currently serves on the advisory board at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, is president of the Penn State Alumni Society of Architectural Engineers, is a trustee for the Francis L. Greenfield Laborers’ Joint Training Fund, Washington, DC, and is a life member of the Penn State Alumni Association

Dr. Dougherty was honored as an Architectural Engineering Centennial Fellow by Penn State in 2010 and received the PSEAS Distinguished Service Award in 2013.  Most recently, Dr. Dougherty was named to Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) 2013 Top 20 Under 40 in the Mid-Atlantic and served as the 2013 Commencement Speaker at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

You can connect with Dr. Dougherty on twitter @JUDougherty.

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