The seven young winners who starred at GE’s inaugural Next Generation Awards are an inspiration to us all in the industry
How often are you reminded what it’s like to be just starting out in a career? I’m getting that reminder quite a lot these days.
Why? Well, seven years into my career at New Civil Engineer, I recently stepped in to help out on the magazine where my career at EMAP began – as editor on NCE’s sister title Ground Engineering. It has served as a pleasant reminder of what it was like to be starting out in engineering journalism.
I also get that reminder of what it’s like to be embarking on new challenges in my day job as news editor for NCE – for instance, when someone shows me a new piece of technology that allows us to get our content to our audience in an entirely fresh way. And that’s certainly at the front of my mind right now, with NCE this month relaunching its app as a live news resource. That has led me to begin work on building the all-new GE website and revamping its app, too. More on both of those developments soon, suffice to say that both the website and app will offer our audience the opportunity to view content in a way that is entirely different from anything we have tried before.
Again, a refreshing experience. And I hope similarly invigorating moments remind you, too, not to become too rehearsed in how you do things, even if you’ve become used to doing something the same way a thousand times over.
It’s important to acknowledge these moments when they happen, not just for the benefit of those who have the fresh ideas, but also because it can serve as inspiration to the next generation – in any profession.
And that, in a nutshell, is what the inaugural GE Next Generation Awards are all about.
We are keen to recognise the need to ensure a diverse, open and skilled workforce is ready to carry on creating legacies that the geotechnical industry can be proud of.
In the following pages we reveal the seven winners that attended the glittering awards event at the Grange St Paul’s Hotel in London last month. Well done to them all.
For them, the story doesn’t stop there – each of the category winners goes forward to compete for the rising star accolade at next year’s GE Awards.
Congratulations to all shortlisted, commended and winning candidates for showing us the true potential of our industry’s next generation.
Apprentice of the Year
Winner: Rebecca Fasham, Amey
Entries for the Apprentice of the Year Award were required to demonstrate an understanding of how ground engineering fits within the wider UK construction market. Candidates were expected to show passion for improving quality and standards in the industry, as well as providing evidence of relevant career achievements.
Rebecca Fasham demonstrated all of these qualities in abundance, and it’s clear to see why she has been awarded Apprentice of the Year 2014. Within the space of five years, Fasham has completely overhauled her career prospects. In her own words, she has grown from a “college dropout” to a “successful and passionate geotechnical technician”.
Embarking on a career in an industry she admittedly knew little about, Fasham has worked incredibly hard to gain solid qualifications and experience while establishing herself as a valued member of Amey’s team.
She joined the company in 2009 as an apprentice and had the opportunity to work alongside different teams of engineers. Her first posting was with the geotechnical team and it was here a true passion for geotechnics was born.
“It all began with organising geological maps, and the fascination of what lies beneath our feet grew from there,” she explains. “I also quite like playing in the dirt, which helps!” This passion and diligence was recognised in 2010 by the Institution of Civil Engineers when she was awarded a QUEST Technician Scholarship.
While finding her feet and getting to grips with the complex world of geotechnics, Fasham has utilised Amey’s allocated community days to fundraise and take part in charitable events for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Acorns Children’s Hospital. Her feats included a 100ft abseil, a 13,000ft skydive and running the London Marathon. Beyond these endeavours, Fasham is determined to become an inspiration for younger generations and encourage young people into engineering and geotechnics.
“I want to learn, I want to share my knowledge and experience, I want to promote the industry and, mostly, I’m determined to make a positive difference,” she says.
This palpable enthusiasm and confidence thoroughly impressed the judges. The panel commended her “keenness to inspire another generation of school students to become engineers” through her role as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ambassador, summing her up as an “impressive” candidate with “great ambition”.
- Ray Cantwell, CH2M Hill
- Rebecca Fasham, Amey
Undergraduate of the Year
Winner: Jignasha Panchal, City University London
The Undergraduate of the Year category was a fiercely fought contest, with each of the shortlisted candidates gaining impressive scores from the judges. The award is for students currently studying for or who have recently completed an undergraduate degree in an engineering geology or geotechnics subject. Submissions from those who have undertaken a project focused on engineering geology or geotechnics as part of a civil engineering degree were also accepted.
As with the Postgraduate of the Year category, candidates were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the science of soil mechanics and passion for ground engineering, evidenced through solid academic achievements.
The panel noted that the category was very difficult to judge due to the high standard of submissions and presentations. The judges also remarked that each finalist compared very well to those shortlisted for the Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year (age 26-30) award.
Jignasha Panchal won the Undergraduate of the Year title. Currently studying a civil engineering MEng, Panchal has also undertaken a 12-month industrial placement with Dyer & Butler at Heathrow.
Her work has been used to improve safety on-site by ensuring appropriate plant use.
She says: “I decided to study engineering as I enjoy designing solutions to suit society’s needs without negatively impacting the environment,” adding, “I enjoy the challenge of understanding the mechanics of soil behaviour through existing theories or by experimental means.”
Panchal’s love of engineering was clear to the judges who were excited by the fact that she is already contributing to advancing industry knowledge. They described her as confident and enthusiastic with “a good vision of what engineering is about”.
Finalists Jack Blake and Jack Taggart both impressed with their level of knowledge and enthusiasm. Blake is currently studying civil engineering and has completed placements with Skanska and Atkins. He delivered a “confident and well-structured presentation” and the judges felt his developing understanding of geotechnics will provide a sound basis for a promising career.
As an engineering geology and geotechnics student currently undertaking an industrial placement with Ramboll, Taggart demonstrated an understanding of on-site geotechnics and application in the design office. The judges praised his ability to “self start” and quickly become a valued member of the team at Ramboll.
- Jack Blake, Cardiff University
- Jignasha Panchal, City University London
- Jack Taggart, University of Portsmouth
Young Geoenvironmental Engineer of the Year
Winner: Thomas Levick, Amey
For this category, the judges were looking for entrants with a solid understanding of geoenvironmental issues. The shortlisted finalists all demonstrated a passion for ground remediation and environmental protection, as well as having impressive academic and professional achievements.
When asked what had influenced his career choice, Thomas Levick, this year’s winner of the Young Geoenvironmental Engineer Award, explained: “It is my passion to improve the environment around me…this extends into protecting it for others. In doing so I have found the ideal job role as a geoenvironmental engineer.”
While taking a geoenvironmental chemistry course at Durham University, he discovered an interest in contaminated sites. Taking on a part-time job specialising in demolition of above ground tanks and asbestos removal was pivotal in helping him understand how his academic knowledge could be put into practice. Levick continued his academic path with a postgraduate course in environmental hydrogeology, before joining Amey in 2011. He has since chaired geoenvironmental forums to build awareness of key issues to the company, as well as working on a wide variety of projects. He has committed to developing his own technical skills to promote the understanding of others in the team through the provision of training courses, seminars and presentations.
Levick recently became lead geoenvironmental engineer for a £500,000 landfill gas mitigation scheme. He is also pursuing chartership through both the British Geological Society and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management.
In his spare time Levick plays for the Great Britain senior American Football team. He represents his country as team captain during international fixtures, and has developed strong team and leadership skills.
The judges commended Levick as a “determined, enthusiastic and knowledgeable young engineer with a good overall experience of site investigation leading to appropriate remediation techniques”. Through his entry and final presentation to the judges, Levick made it clear why he should be crowned Young Geoenvironmental Engineer of the Year by demonstrating his understanding of the key issues affecting the sector, combined with “clarity of vision” for the role of geoenvironmental engineering within his organisation.
- Mark Griffiths, Arup
- Thomas Levick, Amey
- Adam Putt, ESG
Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year (up to age 26)
Winner: Maria Canellas, Expanded Geotechnical
The young geotechnical engineers hoping to win this category had to show clear understanding of the science of soil mechanics and a passion for ground engineering, supported by evidence of academic and professional achievements.
This year’s winner, Maria Canellas, cites her strong ethos of hard work and ambition to constantly strive for innovation as something that sets her apart from the competition.
So far, Canellas has developed an innovative pile design, removing the need for temporary supports; completed a year’s placement as project manager on a £2M bored piling project in central London; and undertaken a role as bid manager for piling on the Thames Tideway Tunnel (Central Section). An aptitude for languages, including Spanish and German, has also allowed her to work around the world.
Canellas is an active member of the ICE and is determined to achieve Chartered status in 2015, at the age of 24. After graduating with a degree in civil, structural and environmental engineering, she joined Laing O’Rourke in 2012 as a graduate engineer. She highlights her involvement with the design and delivery of the piling works on the Abell & Cleland House Project in London as her best experience as a geotechnical engineer to date.
“The experience allowed me to dynamically assess geotechnical practical, technical and commercial risks and take direct action and control of situations,” Canellas says.
“I learnt to apply my technical knowledge in a practical application to solve critical problems such as irremovable obstructions or varying ground conditions.”
Laing O’Rourke operations manager, Expanded Geotechnical, Matthew Smith adds: “Through recent project management experiences [Maria] has been able to demonstrate a wide range of skills ranging from technical to commercial abilities in challenging environments. Throughout this she has demonstrated a responsibility for site teams and operations within the safety management regime required of the company.”
The judges felt that this extensive experience made Canellas worthy winner of the Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year title. They were “impressed by the breadth of Maria’s experience, her confidence and the quality of her presentation”. There was also high praise for her various case studies and evident “innovation in thinking and application”.
- Maria Canellas, Expanded Geotechnical
- Victor Dubasaru, Arup
- David Farmer, Arup
- Nick Kalampokas, Atkins
Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year (age 26-30)
Winner: Lauren Doughty, Arup
This award was judged on candidates’ ability to innovate, demonstrate astute business acumen and show evidence of significant contribution to a project, or demonstrate technical ability through research.
Entrants were also asked to show their understanding of soil mechanics and demonstrate their passion for ground engineering.
Lauren Doughty of Arup was chosen as Young Geotechnical Engineer of the Year after demonstrating a broad range of practical experience and design work.
“I have participated in some great projects in recent years, from high level management of a framework of over 25 tasks to producing planning reports for a residential basement extension in London,” she says. “I have represented Arup with clients, potential clients and subcontractors and managed these relationships effectively.
“I am particularly proud of my current position on the authorship team for the CIRIA C580 Embedded Retaining Walls update, which enables me to contribute to the future of geotechnics whilst learning a great deal en route.”
Doughty says engineering is an inspiring subject to study and even more rewarding as a career. Three years after graduating with a degree in engineering design with study in industry, she works for Arup as part of its geotechnics team. Her vast project experience includes conventional new build design and asset management work.
Doughty’s line manager, Mike Devriendt is especially pleased with her work: “Many clients and colleagues have commented on Lauren’s abilities by using expressions like ‘experience beyond her years’ and ‘wise head on young shoulders’. This evidences Lauren’s ability and marks her out as an outstanding talent who has developed rapidly since graduation.”
The judges were in agreement with this sentiment, commenting on Doughty’s “wide ranging knowledge and impressive asset management experience”.
The panel also decided that Kirstie Broadbent’s strong entry deserved a High Commendation. Currently working as part of the team at Cementation Skanska, Broadbent “exuded a passion for geotechnical engineering and strong technical ability”.
Her role as an active Institution of Civil Engineers ambassador, mentoring and encouraging young people, was also applauded by the judges.
- Kirstie Broadbent, Cementation Skanska (Highly Commended)
- Lauren Doughty, Arup
- Sean Gallacher, Atkins
- Daniel Rendell, Keller Getec
Young Ground Investigation Specialist of the Year
Winner: Isaac Griffiths, Atkins
The desire to improve ground engineering through quality site investigation is a key concern for every ground investigation specialist. Entrants for the Young Ground Investigation Specialist category were asked to demonstrate their approach to this while outlining their understanding of ground engineering and soil mechanics.
Both finalists in this category successfully highlighted how their academic and professional achievements reflect their understanding of, and passion for, ground engineering. However, this year’s winner, Isaac Griffiths, set himself apart with his level of enthusiasm and business acumen.
Griffiths didn’t study engineering at undergraduate level, instead opting for a degree in geography. But the geotechnical aspects of the course piqued his interest and provided a solid foundation for a career in ground investigation.
“As geotechnical engineers, we do not have a standard book of concrete or steel strengths, we must investigate the ground and justify the properties which we assign to each material encountered,” he says.
Having completed his geography degree, Griffiths undertook a work placement with Mouchel in Dubai. As part of the placement he assisted the resident engineer on the ground investigation contract for the Waterfront Project, before returning to the UK to complete a postgraduate degree in geotechnical engineering.
In 2009, Griffiths joined the ground engineering team at Atkins, where he has worked on the London Gateway Port – Rail Corridor Project, working as geotechnical resident engineer and advising the contractor on geotechnical issues.
“From day one [Isaac] started taking responsibilities which we normally don’t expect from engineers at that level,” comments Atkins head of ground engineering Anurag Kushwaha.
“Isaac has very good commercial awareness. He has been responsible for preparing tender documents for major ground investigation works, doing tender analysis and then procuring them.”
The judging panel was equally impressed by Griffiths’ commercial awareness, noting the “astute business acumen in his approach to the role of innovation and how new techniques can have a positive impact”.
The judges awarded finalist Sean Pearce a High Commendation, praising his “enthusiasm for innovation and keenness for new technology”. They concluded that he has strong potential to grow his positive contribution to ground investigation in the future.
- Sean Pearce, Atkins (Highly Commended)
- Isaac Griffiths, Atkins
Postgraduate Student of the Year
Winner: Georgios Katsigiannis, University College London
The Postgraduate Student of the Year category is for students who are currently studying for or who have recently completed a postgraduate degree in an engineering geology or geotechnics subject. Submissions had to show a clear understanding of the science of soil mechanics and a passion for ground engineering. The judges also expected to see a strong record of academic and professional achievements, such as awards, published papers and chartered status.
With this in mind, Georgios Katsigiannis won the judges over with what they described as “an outstanding record of academic achievements”. Currently a UCL EngD student sponsored by Arup, he has been twice awarded the Junior Researcher Grant for outstanding research with European impact. His research work has also been published and presented at European and international conferences.
Part of Katsigiannis’ studies take place at London Business School and he is also a visiting researcher at Graz University of Technology in Austria, working closely with the Computational Geotechnics Group. Aside from this, he has taken on additional responsibility as the organiser of the annual international workshop on EC7 & New Design Challenges and has recently been appointed secretary of the International Society for Soil Mechanics & Geotechnical Engineering committee on “Evaluation of Eurocode 7”. This has enabled Katsigiannis to continue building his international profile.
Brian Simpson, Arup Fellow, says: “George has an unusually high international profile because of his valuable contributions to Eurocode 7 Evolution Groups and ISSMGE committees – both TC205 and ETC10. He is possibly the only research student who has been significantly involved in these groups and meetings… members of these senior committees know that they can rely on him for valuable contributions to their work.”
Katsigiannis’ “excellent understanding of his subject” and “the huge impact of his work on the profession” led to the judges selecting him as this year’s winner. His entry scored highly with the judges, but was closely followed by that of Ben Swatton, who received a High Commendation.
Swatton completed his postgraduate degree in tunnelling and underground space this year and is currently working with Arup. The judges described him as a passionate individual who is “committed to giving back to the industry by inspiring the next generation”.
- Georgios Katsigiannis, University College London
- Frederick Levy, Mott MacDonald Foundations & Geotechnics
- Mohammad Safari Baghsorkhi, University of Nottingham
- Ben Swatton, Arup (Highly Commended)