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Passion and the glory

NCE events - Lucy Penman, from Taylor Woodrow Construction and Imperial College, is winner of the 2004 NCE Graduate Awards. David Hayward reports.

Co-ordinating the recarpeting of the Albert Hall between nightly concerts; building footpaths through a Chilean nature reserve;

persuading a record number of university students to join the Institution of Civil Engineers and currently in charge of repeatedly diverting 60,000 daily commuters through the ever changing maze of London's King's Cross Underground Station redevelopment.

With these examples of the career to date of this year's superstar winning graduate, 23 year old Lucy Penman, it is little surprise that her company boss describes her as a young engineer displaying 'enormous enthusiasm;

readily accepting responsibility and delivering results well above expectation'.

She was fascinated from the age of six by road resurfacing contracts and, two years later, was being given an engineer's drawing board on which to practice elevations and cross sections of her house.

A Taylor Woodrow university scholarship meant summer vacations from Imperial College offered a range of experiences, from building working models of the London Eye and Stephenson's Rocket to installing seismic monitoring at a nuclear power station.

Penman's developing 'passion' for civil engineering encouraged the young undergraduate not just to become the university's ICE liaison officer, but to then persuade over 100 of her fellow classmates to enrol as student ICE members - a record rate for Imperial.

Several post graduate months hacking footpaths through the forests of Chile proved surprisingly relevant experience for Penman's current role on Taylor Woodrow Construction's King's Cross redevelopment project. Here she oversees the constantly changing pedestrian routes for countless commuters through the underground ticket hall and is particularly proud of supervising construction completion of a major, though temporary, 'critical path' staircase 'with just a few hours to spare'.

'Today's engineers can too easily get caught up in the cost, rather than the quality, of a project, ' Penman reflects.

'They should smile more and realise they are doing one of the most satisfying jobs possible.'

Our winner had little difficulty convincing the judges of her job satisfaction, which prompted chairman Richard Haryott to conclude: 'Lucy has infectious enthusiasm and already demonstrates a clear ability to apply engineering judgement - she will go far.'

Her £1,000 top prize will, of course, be spent on something sensible or job related: No way, she says, with a characteristic smile. She's going to have fun blowing it on a skiing holiday, 'and maybe another warm jumper for visiting my folks up North'.

Career lSection engineer, Taylor Woodrow Construction l2:1 MEng Imperial College lTaylor Woodrow University Scholarship lUniversity ICE Liaison Officer JOINT RUNNER-UP DAN JENKIN Just last weekend runner-up Dan Jenkin was justifying his achievement by running up some 20 South Wales mountains as part of an 80km race.

Commando training with the Royal Marines Reserve has helped keep this 25 year old Bristol University graduate fit for numerous other 'expeditions', including leading sailing exercises with army cadets in Croatia and twice visiting Equador to head a 30-strong volunteer construction team building a school and AIDS clinic.

Jenkin puts the same energy into his day job and an already six year involvement with Taylor Woodrow Construction now finds him on the same King's Cross redevelopment site as winner Lucy Penman. As planning engineer in daily charge of all the project's £20M worth of mechanical and electrical works, he chairs the weekly meeting of eight subcontractors as the multidisciplinary team weaves its services through the underground labyrinth of passages.

'Civil engineers can get too isolated in their own disciplinary box and should learn to work better with engineering colleagues in other sectors, ' he says.

'As a profession we lack communications skills yet we are all building the same project.'

A string of lucrative awards at Bristol, including scholarships from Taylor Woodrow and the prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering, gave Jenkin the opportunity to learn Spanish in Spain, research a sustainability report on water distribution in Tanzania and even take a law course.

'Dan has drive, motivation, technical ability and an appetite to make a difference' says his Taylor Woodrow boss.

Career lPlanning engineer, Taylor Woodrow Construction l1st Class MEng Bristol University lScholarships from the Royal Academy of Engineering, ICE Quest and Taylor Woodrow lUniversity prize for academic, social and sporting activities JOINT RUNNER UP FELICITY BENNETT When the judges asked Felicity Bennett to describe the qualities needed of a civil engineer she, not surprisingly, drew an analogy with a cricket team captain.

For this 23 year old Oxford University graduate is already an accomplished cricketer, having played for the MCC's national women's team nine times.

'Playing hard and impressing others by your leadership and teamwork skills are the qualities needed, ' she says, adding that the confusion surrounding engineering status would be eased if all disciplines simply called themselves chartered engineers, with specialisations like civil and mechanical becoming less prominent. 'That is what doctors do even though they are also all specialists in a specific branch of medicine.'

On joining Black & Veatch Consulting her enthusiasm for water engineering could be satisfied and she has already been involved in the design of several clean and waste water plants.

'Water is essential to society and its engineering can have profound environmental impact, ' says Bennett. 'I want to be part of shaping this industry in the 21st century.'

Career lGraduate engineer, Black & Veatch Consulting l1st Class MEng Oxford University lICE and Maurice Lubbock prizes for best civil engineering performance lAccomplished MCC women's cricket player HIGHLY COMMENDED PETER WILKIE The list of prizes won by Peter Wilkie while achieving a 1st Class MEng from Newcastle University covers a full page of his CV. Yet overshadowing some 10 prizes and awards is his pioneering role throughout his time at Newcastle in promoting engineering to local schools.

By co-ordinating infrastructure design competitions for 15 year olds; focused university visits for sixth formers and schools' projects set by civils lecturers, Wilkie reckons he has encouraged over 100 youngsters to at least consider a civil engineering career seriously.

Now with Arup's water engineering division, the 26 year old graduate oversees the daily project management of a £2.5M waste water treatment works near York that he has seen through from feasibility study to advanced construction. His interest in water started at Newcastle, during which time he spent a summer studying glowing bacteria circulating around a Cincinnati sewage works. The plant had a serious and mysterious treatment failure which Wilkie helped solve.

He then co-wrote a research paper published by the American Institution of Water Engineers.

'Engineers must change from being design machines for clients to become leading figures in shaping the way society functions, ' Wilkie argues. 'I want to work in a profession where the management of risk, and the addition of value to our clients, justifies healthy (financial rates) rather than destructive competition for ever reducing margins.'

Career lGraduate engineer Arup l1st Class MEng Newcastle University lUniversity and Brian Rowe scholarships for vacation studies lICE, Arthur Penman and Babtie prizes for proficiency in engineering design, all round performance and dissertation HIGHLY COMMENDED PAUL GARTHWAITE 'Hit the big screen and make civil engineering more sexy.

We must rebrand ourselves and market our skills more effectively, ' Paul Garthwaite told the judges excitedly. 'Like most engineers I have a real passion for what I do, but we fail to communicate this to others.'

On the enthusiasm scale this 24 year old Leeds University graduate would score 11 out of 10 as he bombarded the judges with ideas to make the profession more high profile.

'Television programmes about construction and more national media coverage' he says. 'We are among the most important players in infrastructure design and construction and yet have an embarrassingly little influence in its future - Brunel would not have tolerated such a scenario, so why should we?'

As a semi-professional football referee, Garthwaite is used to responsibility; and at the head of a string of 12 university prizes he puts a coveted leadership award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

As an assistant engineer in White Young Green's rail division, he has overseen the design and construction of several significant schemes including a major bridge replacement on the West Coast Main Line and strengthening sections of Stockport's multispan brick rail viaduct.

His 'dream' of being a civil engineer began when he was helping his uncle build a dry stone wall sheep shelter on the north York moors. 'Now I am living that dream, ' he claims.

Career lAssistant engineer, White Young Green l1st Class MEng Leeds University lRoyal Academy of Engineering leadership award lICE Jubilee scholarship and award for top student in final year civil engineering HIGHLY COMMENDED DAVID ROCKHILL Two summers on a remote Japanese island, funded by a Cambridge University scholarship, offered David Rockhill not only an unforgettable cultural impression but also the opportunity to study a new vibration-free pile driver.

His research generated a further university prize in soil mechanics, and a paper presented to an international foundations conference - and all before his 24th birthday.

Now a structural engineer with Buro Happold, Rockhill has continued to nurture the unusual by spearheading the design of an Antarctic research station and conceiving a modular, fast-build sports hall built of skin clad timber panels and an inflatable plastic roof.

'Engineers have tremendous skills and can design fantastic structures but we don't sell ourselves enough, ' he claims. 'If architects can seduce their clients so can we.'

His love of structures was sparked during a fun day at the ICE when the then 12 year old schoolboy admired a model bridge built of spaghetti.

Asked why he chose civil engineering Rockhill says: 'The role of the civil engineer encompasses a range of skills that languish dormant and unexercised by other professions. There really was no alternative.'

Career lStructural engineer, Buro Happold l1st class MEng Cambridge University lUniversity prizes for soil mechanics and engineering achievement lICE Quest and Japanese research university scholarships

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