Architecture & Engineering Special Section
Engineer of the Year Nominees

hat makes a great engineer? It’s not just a solid grasp of math, physics, science, and technology. There are also intangible qualities in an ideal candidate; creative vision, problem solving skills, and a healthy dose of pragmatism are employed by engineers every day. Put it all together, add a budget and a deadline, and the result is an Alaska built on innovation, safety, and ingenuity. The evidence is all around us, seen in the buildings we frequent, the roads we travel, and even the air we breathe.

Every year, Alaska Business proudly presents the nominees for Engineer of the Year, a list of professionals whose work has left a remarkable, positive impact. Each nominee has achieved impressive accomplishments in a wide variety of projects. But we also ask readers to recognize the countless investments these individuals have made in their communities as well. These nominees engage with professional associations of peers and colleagues, some even serving in leadership positions. They also foster the development of Alaskan youth that aspire to achieve the same success. Rest assured, whomever is named Engineer of the Year, it will not only speak to his or her individual accomplishments but also that nominee’s love of this state.

Craig Bledsoe, CSP, PE
Craig Bledsoe, CSP, PE
Photo courtesy of Craig Bledsoe
Craig Bledsoe, CSP, PE
Nominated by the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers

raig Bledsoe got started in his technically oriented career as a young emergency communications volunteer during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This was good preparation for handling disaster traffic as a teenage ham radio operator with survivors of the 1964 Earthquake after the state’s communications infrastructure collapsed. Bledsoe served in multiple military branches as an aircraft commander and aviation accident investigator, and he became an airline pilot for Flying Tigers, which was subsequently purchased by Federal Express.

Following graduate school at the University of Southern California, Bledsoe became a professional engineer specializing in aviation safety and aircraft accident investigation. He has investigated multiple civil and military incidents and crashes, and he was selected to serve as the head of flight safety for the Air Line Pilots Association at FedEx.

Upon retirement from FedEx, Bledsoe was chosen by Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) to become the site safety superintendent for a major medical facility construction project on Fort Richardson. Subsequently he was promoted to headquarters safety engineer at BBNC headquarters in Anchorage. Bledsoe has published multiple peer-reviewed technical articles in several national professional journals. At the beginning of 2020, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals selected him to fill a paid position writing test questions for the professional certification examination.

Bledsoe is the president of the Alaska Regional Chapter of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators, and he is currently serving as the statewide president of the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers. He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of California.

Virginia Groeschel, EIT
Nominated by the American Society of Civil Engineers

irginia J. Groeschel is a consultant coordinator and specifications engineer for the DOT&PF–Central Region Aviation Design Section. She is also the Central Region–Design & Engineering Services Internship Program manager.

Some of her notable airport projects (Bethel, Togiak, and Newtok airports) encompass unique design challenges, such as remote locations, permafrost, and a rare new airport construction. As a specifications engineer, she works primarily on updating the 117 airport specifications for FAA approval. As the internship program manager, Groeschel mentors up to twelve engineering and survey students. Groeschel has fifteen years of experience in aviation and highway design, water and sewer design, utility coordination, and construction management.

Born in the Philippines, Groeschel grew up on Kodiak Island after her father was transferred to the US Coast Guard Air Station Base. She holds two degrees from UAA; a bachelor’s in civil engineering (2006) and a master’s in project management (2020).

Groeschel was recently selected as the 2020 Student Commencement Speaker for the UAA Graduate Hooding Ceremony. Her master’s thesis focused on developing an innovative process management model for streamlining the complex task of updating DOT&PF airport specifications, requiring both statewide concurrence and FAA approval.

Groeschel’s extensive volunteer work exemplifies her passion to make a positive impact in her community while promoting STEAM education and advocacy. She is a member and past-president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Anchorage Branch and Alaska Section. She is also a member of the Society of Women Engineers. Groeschel co-founded and is currently president of the UAA College of Engineering (CoEng) Alumni Chapter, where she partners with ASCE, UAA, UAA student chapters, and other local organizations to help organize events and programs like UAA Engineer’s Night, UAA Alumni Hall of Fame, the Turnagain Elementary PTA STEAM Expo, UAA SWE Student Chapter Women in Engineering Night, and UAA EWeek Student Tour and helps develop the UAA CoEng Undergraduate Mentorship Pilot Program, among others.

Virginia Groeschel, EIT
Virginia Groeschel, EIT
Photo courtesy of Virginia Groeschel
Gregory Jernstrom, PE
Gregory Jernstrom, PE
Photo courtesy of Gregory Jernstrom
Gregory Jernstrom, PE
Nominated by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers

regory Jernstrom commenced his engineering career in Seattle working for a firm specializing in healthcare infrastructure and green building designs. He has earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in engineering management, both from the University of Alaska system, and after returning to Anchorage is now the managing principal and owner of Jernstrom Engineering.

He was raised in Alaska where he grew up in a family of engineers and entrepreneurs and spent the university summers doing CAD drafting and interning at a sheet metal fabrication shop. Having spent the majority of his career in Alaska, Jernstrom is familiar with the logistics of engineering in challenging Arctic environments. He has gained extensive design experience during his consulting career and has worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from small renovations to large remote new constructions, as well as various LEED and energy compliance projects.

In addition to design work, Jernstrom manages eight team members, including four licensed engineers between offices in Anchorage and Wasilla. He has volunteered with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers since 2010 and is a past president of the Alaska chapter, past regional chair of the Young Engineer committee, and current membership promotion chair. He also enjoyed volunteering for Anchorage Engineers Week in the past as the fundraising chair to support scholarship opportunities for high school students pursuing a career in engineering.

Outside of engineering, Jernstrom and his wife Katherine enjoy supporting the startup scene at The Boardroom coworking space, fostering and adopting rescue dogs, and working on various projects at their cabin and home.

Nickolas Oliveira, PE
Nickolas Oliveira, PE
Photo courtesy of Nickolas Oliveira
Sarah Belway, PE
Sarah Belway, PE
Photo courtesy of Sarah Belway
Nickolas Oliveira, PE
Nominated by the Institute of Transportation Engineers

ickolas M. Oliveira was born in Oregon and, at the age of four, his family moved to Seldovia. During high school, Oliveira counted airplanes for a HDL Engineering Consultant project, piquing his interest in engineering.

Oliveira attended UAA for civil engineering and inquired if HDL had any engineering-related internships, thus beginning his HDL career. In 2008, Oliveira earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering focusing on transportation, and in 2017 Oliveira became an HDL associate.

His project experience has taken Oliveira throughout Alaska, the majority on the roadway system, working on multiple Alaska DOT&PF and Municipality of Anchorage transportation projects. His notable projects include the Glenn Highway MP 34-42 Reconstruction, Sterling Highway Slow Vehicle Turnouts, West 88th School Zone Pedestrian Improvements, and sixteen pavement preservation projects.

Oliveira became the Institute of Transportation Engineers Alaska Section secretary/treasurer in 2016, continuing to be president in 2018. Currently, Oliveira serves as an American Public Works Association director. Since 2016, Oliveira has volunteered for the Engineering Week student competitions.

His community activism involves providing engineering and building expertise, supporting organizations through volunteer work, and working with youth. Oliveira is strongly involved with the Cornerstone Church Cold Weather Shelter program, providing meals and shelter to families in need.

He loves spending time with his family of eight children, their spouses, and eight grandkids. As an active outdoorsman, Oliveira enjoys hunting and fishing, and as an improvement “specialist” at heart, offering his engineering skills helping family and friends.

Sarah Belway, PE
Nominated by the National Association of Women in Construction

rom the get-go, field engineering has been Sarah Belway’s specialty. The more difficult the field conditions, the better. Whether on a remote site or an international project faced with harsh weather, a compressed schedule, complex logistics, changed conditions, or language barriers, Belway brings her positive and adventurous spirit, ready to apply in-depth knowledge, technical analysis, and creative thought to successfully deliver projects.

And she has done it all—laborer, operator, field engineer, project engineer, QC manager, and project manager. This collective experience makes Belway adept at client-focused, innovative problem solving. A rare talent, integrating design and construction considerations throughout field execution (often “on the fly”) comes naturally to Belway.

Over twenty-four years, Belway has applied her field engineering expertise on projects on the West Coast, Alaska’s North Slope and Aleutian Islands, Guam, Korea, Japan, Northern Mariana Islands, and an isolated 2.5-square-mile island in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean known as Wake Island.

Belway has a bachelor’s in civil engineering and is a registered professional engineer in four states. She has also been active with professional organizations, mentoring aspiring women engineers, judging student competitions, and delivering presentations.

She is a past member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Association of Professional Engineers, and the Association of Women in Geosciences. Today, she is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers, National Association of Women in Construction, and the Society of American Military Engineers. In 2019, she co-authored an article published in SAME’s The Military Engineer.

Morgan Bruno, PE
Nominated by the Society of American Military Engineers

organ Bruno has eleven years of experience as an environmental engineer and more than five years of project management experience. She began working on Alaska projects in 2011 and has become one of Ahtna Engineering Services’ top environmental engineers and project managers since joining the firm in 2018.

Bruno serves as the lead engineer for environmental investigation, remediation, and demolition projects around the state of Alaska for various federal and DoD clients. Bruno’s notable projects include: AFCEC JBER OW118 and PL081 Site Characterizations, AFCEC JBER SA110 Remedial Investigation, AFCEC JBER SS125 Remedial Investigation, FAA Cold Bay MASLR Demolition and Remedial Action, FAA Deadhorse VOR Hazardous Materials Removal, FAA Yakutat Demolition, Site Investigation, and Remedial Investigation, USCG Base Kodiak Site 35 PFAS Groundwater Investigation, USACE Alaska District Ogliuga Island Phase II Remedial Investigation, and USACE Alaska District Port Heiden Radio Relay Station Landfill Feasibility Study.

Bruno is active with the SAME Anchorage Post, serving on the board of directors, Post scholarship committee, and helping to plan several Post events throughout the year.

Bruno received her bachelor’s in biological and agricultural engineering from the University of Idaho in 2007 and a master’s in chemical engineering from Oregon State University in 2009.

Bruno was raised in Washington but has made Alaska her home since moving here in 2016. When not working, Bruno takes advantage of all the recreational opportunities Alaska offers, filling her free time with hiking, fat biking, running, and camping.

Morgan Bruno, PE
Morgan Bruno
Photo courtesy of Morgan Bruno, PE
Jennifer Julian. headshot
Jennifer Julian
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Julian
Jennifer Julian
Nominated by the Society of Petroleum Engineers

ennifer Julian is a senior well intervention advisor with thirty-three years of experience; she earned a bachelor’s from New Mexico Institute of Technology and Mining.

She is currently a senior well intervention advisor for Prudhoe Bay and other global BP oilfields. Julian is a recognized industry innovator and implementer of new well work and well integrity technology including advances in coiled tubing and tractor technology, downhole leak identification, and non-rig remediation. She has thirty-three years of diversified operations and production engineering experience in the petroleum field and more than twenty-nine years of well intervention experience, including six years field experience as a wellsite leader supervising stimulations, coiled tubing, and wireline. She has solid technical background and strong communication skills.

Julian is a recognized worldwide authority on annular communication, non-rig remediation, and non-rig artificial lift expertise. She easily works with all groups including operations, D&C, and base management.

Julian is recognized for leadership in improving safety, for leadership in technical innovation, and for leadership in technical innovation and minimizing costs. She is capable of influencing a large organization and active in the Society of Petroleum Engineers. She was the 2011/12 SPE Distinguished Lecturer; chairperson for 2014 SPE Intervention and Coiled Tubing Forum; and won the 2018 International SPE Production and Operations Award.

Stephanie Mormilo, PE
Stephanie Mormilo, PE
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Mormilo
Dr. Scott Hamel, PE
Dr. Scott Hamel, PE
Photo courtesy of Dr. Scott Hamel
Stephanie Mormilo, PE
Nominated by the Society of Women Engineers

tephanie Mormilo is proud to be a home-grown Alaskan engineer. She graduated from UAA with a bachelor’s in civil engineering in 2004 as one of the first recipients of the UA Scholar Program.

Mormilo began her career at DOWL focusing on road designs, traffic impact, and traffic noise analyses. She then managed the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) Traffic Department Term Contract for HDL Engineering Consultants.

The opportunity for her dream job presented itself earlier than expected—Mormilo was appointed as the Municipal Traffic Engineer in March 2011. For nine years, she was a part of nearly every commercial, residential, and industrial development that occurred in Anchorage. Her position allowed her to work with many agencies, politicians, consultants, and the public—always focusing on how to make Anchorage a better and safer place to live.

She returned to the private sector and HDL this year to take her experience on the owner’s side to help improve design work and coordination. She looks forward to her future as a consultant and the challenge of mentoring.

Mormilo is a STEMinist, advocating for women in underrepresented fields, not only in her work but where she spends her time and money. She is an active member of the Greatland Section of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE Greatland) and volunteers at SmartGirls Rock, Girl Scout Women in Science and Technology day, and the EWeek Student Competitions. And, with her mom and sister, she funds a scholarship through SWE Greatland to pay forward what was given to her.

Outside of work, Mormilo and her husband, Steve, are avid world travelers; they’ve visited four of the seven continents and hope to make it to them all (yes, even Antarctica) during their lifetime.

Dr. Scott Hamel, PE
Nominated by the Structural Engineers Association of Alaska

cott Hamel grew up paddling and hiking in the mountains and lakes of New Hampshire. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering at WPI in Massachusetts and the University of Colorado at Boulder, respectively. Between degrees he worked as a bridge designer in Boston and a structural engineer in Denver designing hospitals and courthouses. After earning his PE in Colorado, he returned to school and completed his doctorate in structural engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Hamel joined the faculty at UAA in 2011, where he teaches up to seven courses a year in civil and structural engineering. Between 2014 and 2019, he directed the UAA Summer Engineering Academies, a series of week-long summer camps that promote engineering. This program tripled in size under his direction. In 2020, he was elected chair of the Civil Engineering Department. His current research activities involve structural insulated panels, accreted ice at the Port of Anchorage, and seismic reliability assessments of structures in Anchorage.

Hamel has been an active member of SEAAK since 2011, including the SEAAK Snow Loads Committee, an eight-year project of which Hamel is a founder. This committee has renewed and expanded the ’80s era snow load values that are used to design all structures in Alaska. Their work is in the process of being adopted by the National Code.

Hamel currently lives in Anchorage with his wife and three kids.