The 2021 Engineer of the Year Winners
The cream of Alaska’s engineering crop

ngineers Week is a nationwide event founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951; the goal of the weeklong focus on engineering is to ensure a “diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.”

The Alaska engineering community works toward this goal, in part, by recognizing local engineering professionals and projects that demonstrate the best that engineering can be. Below are brief descriptions of the deserving winners in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

In Fairbanks, three engineers are honored for their accomplishments: Engineer of the Year, Young Engineer of the Year (35 years of age or younger), and Student Engineer of the Year.

Engineer of the Year: Dr. Dan White is the UAF chancellor, a role he has fulfilled for five years, but he joined the faculty at UAF in 1995 as a professor of civil and environmental engineering. White has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Washington University, as well as a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

According to nominator Jeff Putnam, “As an engineer, he represents our industry at a high level within Alaska and draws attention to the extraordinary capabilities that engineers have.” Over the course of his career, White has contributed more than fifty journal articles on professional and engineering related topics, such as the effect of climate change on water supply and quality.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, White has invested heavily in the Fairbanks community, currently serving on boards for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Great Northwest Athletics Conference, Alaska Sea Life Center, Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, and the UAF Foundation; in the past he served on boards for the Monroe Foundation, Catholic Schools of Fairbanks, Rotary International–Fairbanks Downtown Club, American Water Works Association, and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, among others.

Dan White
Young Engineer of the Year: Emily Winfield is the lead mechanical engineer for Design Alaska, which she joined in 2014. She was promoted in 2019 to lead the company’s mechanical engineering department, managing multi-discipline projects for the entire organization, an advancement that nominator Chris Miller attributes to “hard work, mentoring, organizational abilities, and technical skills.”
Winfield’s experience includes designing commercial plumbing, utilidor piping, medical gas, HVAC, hydronic, and seismic protection systems, and she has particular interest in environmentally sustainable design that can function efficiently in northern climates. She provided significant technical authorship for the Corps of Engineers developed Guide for Resilient Thermal Energy Systems Design in Cold and Arctic Climates. According to Miller, “Emily’s advanced knowledge in current trends in technology in engineering and construction, Revit, and standards development allows her to keep the mechanical department continuously growing and producing projects that fit current industry standards.”

Winfield has contributed to the professional community in numerous ways, including currently serving as the president of the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers–Fairbanks Chapter. She also participates in ElevateHER, a nationwide industry mentoring group that helps improve diversity in the engineering community.

Emily Winfield
Design Alaska
She is a graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada with a degree in mechanical engineering, and prior to studying engineering she received a bachelor of arts from St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia.
Student Engineer of the Year: Cate Whiting is an “exceptional engineering student,” says David Barnes who, along with Reggie Dallaire, nominated her for the award. Whiting completed her bachelor of science degree in civil engineering at UAF with a 3.98 GPA and is now pursuing a master of science degree, also in civil engineering at UAF. Barnes was her undergraduate advisor and one of her professors. “She worked hard to learn and understand the fundamental principles of the topics being taught and put extra effort into her assignments,” he states. “Of all the students I have advised, Cate stands out in both academics and outside academics.”

In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Whiting participated on the volleyball team and served as team captain during her last season of competition. “She is a leader,” Barnes says. “I watched her many times rally her team from behind to win games, showing her skills as a leader.”

Cate Whiting,
Last summer, Whiting interned at RESPEC (formerly PDC Engineers), working on the Moose Creek Water Expansion project. Dallaire, who collaborated with her on the project, says her performance was “exemplary.” Her duties included onsite quality assurance/quality control of multiple crews and subcontractors. “Despite long fourteen-hour days spent on her feet and in all kinds of weather, Cate never complained, was always on-time, and ensured that each day’s site observation report was detailed and complete,” he says, continuing, “Cate’s optimism, hard work, thoroughness, and attention to detail guarantee her success after graduation and throughout her life.”
In Anchorage, the community celebrates and Engineer of the Year, as well as a project of the year with the Engineering Excellence Award.

Engineer of the Year: Olga Stewart is a senior environmental engineer for Geosyntec Consultants with more than thirteen years of experience with site characterization of contaminated sites, conceptual site model development and refinement, and site cleanup.

She came to Alaska in 2007, seeking out adventure in her Saab hatchback, after earing her business degree in 2005 and materials science engineering degree in 2006, both from Lehigh University.

In 2021, Stewart helped execute three large field projects: a PCB cleanup in Delta Junction, a heavy metals risk assessment on Ogliuga Island, and a fuel site characterization on Great Sitkin Island. She excels at utilizing data and data visualization to develop forward-thinking, strategic, risk-based remedial approaches for clients.

Stewart says she’s had great mentors over her career and pays that forward through outreach to students through programs such as Dimond High’s Smart Girls Rock, Anchorage School District’s Gifted Mentor Program, and SWE’s High School Scholarship Program.

Engineering Excellence Award: RESPEC is the 2022 Engineering Excellence Award winner for its work addressing groundwater contamination at Moose Creek, which was discovered in the area in 2014. Poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used for firefighting at airfields, had leaked from nearby Eielson Air Force Base. The US Air Force took immediate steps to address the problem and began treating 200 water systems, giving users granulated activated carbon filters. Since that solution was unsustainable long term, the Air Force looked at other options and determined to extend the water system from the City of North Pole at a cost of $37 million.

Olga Stewart
Geosyntec Consultants
RESPEC, working as PDC Engineers, estimated the water demands of Moose Creek, evaluated North Pole’s water system capacity, and reviewed land status to inform their expansion of the design. Then they designed well upgrades, a water treatment plant and pumphouse, a steel storage tank, and 18 miles of transmission and distributions mains.

The project went from concept to submittal to permitting in fifteen months, and the project is slated for completion in 2022, allowing the residents of Moose Creek to once again have access to clean water.