Established in 2003, the Outstanding Young Alumni award recognizes an undergraduate, masters, and/or doctorate graduate of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. This award is given to an alumnus under the age of 40 who has distinguished him or herself with outstanding service and contributions to the engineering profession and community. 

If you know of an outstanding young alumni who is deserving of this award, please fill out the nomination form. If you have any questions, please contact the CAEE department. 

2023 Outstanding Young Alumna Priscilla Nguyen
B.S. Architectural Engineering 2014

Priscilla Nguyen is a Structural Engineer at Martinez Moore Engineers (MME) in the Houston office and has more than seven years of experience. She joined MME in February 2022 after working in California for the first 5.5 years of her career. She has design and analysis experience in various sectors including healthcare, higher education, and science & technology. Priscilla received her bachelor's degree in Architectural Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and master’s in Civil Engineering with a structural focus from Stanford University. Priscilla is a licensed professional and structural engineer in the states of California and Texas. She has an interest for the equitable and sustainable design of the built environment to provide safe spaces all communities can experience.

2022 Outstanding Young Alumnus Lee Blaney
Ph.D. Civil Engineering 2011

Lee Blaney is a Professor in the Department of Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He holds BS and MS degrees in Environmental Engineering from Lehigh University and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. His research program focuses on the (1) occurrence and fate of contaminants of emerging concern in natural and engineered systems and (2) recovery of nutrients and other resources from waste streams. He is the recipient of the Environmental Science & Technology James J. Morgan Early Career Award, the National Science Foundation Career Award, and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) Award for Outstanding Teaching in Environmental Engineering and Science. He currently serves as Editor of the Journal of Hazardous Materials and Vice President of AEESP.

2021 Outstanding Young Alumnus Jinbo Chen
Ph.D. 2016

Dr. Jinbo Chen is a licensed PE in Texas. His primary expertise is in Offshore Engineering, including Offshore Geotechnics and Structures, Deepwater Wells, Naval Architecture, and Artificial Intelligence. He currently is the Geotechnical Lead for Shell’s Whale Semisubmersible Platform in the Gulf of Mexico with responsibilities of safe project delivery and novel technology development. He is the recipient of ASCE J. James R. Croes Medal 2021, received the Best OTC Paper Award from the Society of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineers 2021, and authored/coauthored close to 30 journal/conference papers. He received his PhD in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2016, his Master’s Degree in Geotechnical Engineering from National University of Singapore in 2013, and his Bachelor’s Degree in Bridge Engineering from Tongji University in 2009. He is a strong supporter of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion and volunteers frequently in local communities and universities.

2020 Outstanding Young Alumnus Lauren Garner
B.S. 2006, M.S.E. 2008, Ph.D. 2011

Lauren Gardner is the Alton and Sandra Cleveland Professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering and holds a joint appointment In the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her work focuses holistically on virus diffusion as a function of climate, land use, human behavior, mobility and other contributing risk factors. She is the creator of the interactive web-based dashboard being used by public health authorities, researchers, and the general public around the globe to track the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that has spread worldwide. In addition to being named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, Gardner was also included on BBC’s 100 Women List 2020: Women who led change; Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for 2020; the Baltimore Sun’s 25 Women to Watch 2020; and the Baltimore Business Journal’s Best in Tech 2020. She was also a winner of the 2020 Route Fifty Navigator Award, which honors individuals and teams who, while working with or in state, county, or municipal governments, demonstrate their ability to implement a great idea that improves public sector services and the communities they serve.

2019 Outstanding Young Alumnus Kristi Grizzle Gollwitzer
B.S. 2000, M.S. 2003

Kristi Grizzle Gollwitzer, P.E. is Director of Projects at Scenic Houston where she drives streetscape and public space enhancement initiatives from concept to completion. She collaborates with an array if public and private partners to move these plans forward and to deliver capital projects on time and on budget. Kristi spent 15+ years as a structural engineer with Walter P Moore, an international, multi-discipline engineering firm. Kristi was promoted to stockholder and firm principlal in 2014, making her the fifth female principal in the firm's 88-year history. Kristi was the firm's first market sector leader for higher education pursuits. 

Kristi was named Houston Buisness Journal's 40 under 40 in 2017, Engineering News Record's Top 20 under 40 in 2018 and Civil+Structural Engineer Magazine's 2017 Rising Star. Her key projects include George R. Brown Convention Center Improvments, Rice University Music and Performing Arts Center, The Gordy at Stages Repertory Theatre and Garage, University of Houston Multi-Disciplinary Research and Engineering Building, and University of Houston Student Center Transformation.  

2018 Outstanding Young Alumnus Anthony J. Gonzales
BSARE 2000, MSCE 2007 

Anthony Gonzales is the Founder and Managing Principal of Spire Consulting Group, where he is involved in a wide variety of professional services including managing capital projects and programs for clients, serving as a consultant on project controls matters, providing expert testimony in industry disputes, and lecturing to large national and international audiences. He has worked on more than 200 projects totaling more than $54 billion in construction across 20 countries and 25 U.S. states.

He has been recognized with an ENR Top 20 Under 40 award and his company was named a Community Relations Winner at the Greater Austin Business Awards. He is also a highly regarded lecturer in the department’s Construction Engineering and Project Management program, teaching graduate courses and lecturing on contracts, liability and ethics in undergraduate courses. Many students have benefitted from his industry practice-oriented perspective and insights.

2017 Outstanding Young Alumnus J. Brandon Klenzendorf
BSCE 2005, MSEWRE 2007, PhD 2010

Brandon Klenzendorf is a Project Engineer at Geosyntec Consultants in Austin, Texas where he focuses on stormwater management, water resources engineering design, and regulatory compliance projects.  His work primarily includes the modeling and design of green infrastructure and stormwater management facilities to treat runoff for water quality and flood mitigation. 

He is also a lecturer in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin where he teaches the senior-level hydraulic engineering design course. He has also been an integral professional mentor to senior-level engineering professionalism classes for many years and helped lead construction of multiple student projects in the community.  Brandon is actively involved in ASCE at the local and state levels, as well as the Austin Chapter of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute. In 2016, he was awarded the Young Engineer of the Year by the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.

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.