Architecture & Engineering
Engineer of the Year Nominees
Wael M. Hassan
Dr. Wael M. Hassan headshot

r. Wael M. Hassan is an associate professor of structural earthquake engineering at UAA. He obtained his PhD, MA, and post-doctorate at University of California, Berkeley, and structural engineering BS/MS at Cairo University. He is a California-licensed Professional Civil/Structural Engineer. His research interests are simulation and large-scale testing of structures, seismic assessment of existing construction, and performance-based seismic design (PBSD). His PhD was a part of a National Science Foundation project that led Los Angeles to issue a new law to enforce retrofitting its 1,500 non-ductile buildings. Hassan’s seismic assessment research and models were adopted as national standards.

He served as an invited lecturer at top schools, including University of Southern California, University of Tokyo, and University of British Columbia. He authored more than fifty peer-reviewed papers and supervised numerous theses in earthquake engineering. Hassan taught a wide variety of courses at Berkeley, UC Irvine, UAA, Santa Clara University, and the American University in Cairo.

His industry experience is extensive; he established and led the US PBSD of skyscrapers practice at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco, the designers of some world’s tallest buildings. He served on many US code committees and co-led the field reconnaissance mission after the 2018 Anchorage Earthquake. He produced an extensive report receiving national attention, co-chaired a major conference sharing damage lessons, and developed a seismic risk mitigation strategic plan that was key in proposing seismic policy changes in Alaska.

Matt Leistico
Matt Leistico headshot

att Leistico joined PDC Engineers (now RESPEC) in 2002 and has more than twenty-one years of experience in engineering, design, and construction throughout the state of Alaska. He is a region supervisor and an associate of the firm. Leistico is experienced in project management and facilities HVAC systems design as well as extensive special systems work, including facility fuel supplies, sprinkler system design, and HEMP (High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse) shielding.

Leistico has participated in and led numerous projects at various US Department of Defense project sites throughout Alaska, including new construction and renovation of existing facilities. He has an excellent working relationship with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and has a strong working knowledge of USACE design standards and project procedures. His work on military installations in Alaska touches every major installation, such as Clear Space Force Station, Fort Wainwright, Fort Greely, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Eielson Air Force Base. Additionally, Leistico is now involved in several projects with the US Coast Guard and its installation at Air Station Kodiak.

Jessica Miranda
Jessica Miranda headshot

essica Miranda has more than eighteen years of engineering experience, beginning as a student intern with Alaska State Parks. Upon receiving her BS in civil engineering from UAA, she continued at State Parks for ten years, starting as a staff engineer-in-training and working up to project manager. Recognizing that her interests and talents lie in design rather than management, she moved on to a consultant coordinator and design role with Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and later to the state Division of Oil and Gas as a technical engineer. For the past six years, Miranda has been a project engineer with Kinney Engineering.

Miranda is passionate about designing solutions that improve safety, as well as recreational and economic opportunities. She designed the recent Potter Marsh boardwalk, Glen Alps/Flattop overlook and additional parking, and Bird Creek Campground. Additionally, she has worked on several unique transportation projects: researched, analyzed, and recommended robust barrier systems along the Dalton Highway to protect the Trans Alaska Pipeline System from errant trucks; calibrated the Federal Highway Administration’s roadside analysis program for Alaska’s crash data and conditions; and led the effort to analyze and update the curve warning signs on Alaska’s major highways. In addition, she served as the consultant lead for the diagnostic team study for the future Port MacKenzie rail extension.

On top of her project work, Miranda presented at the 2021 Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) international conference and won “Best Paper” from ITE Western District. She volunteered for Smart Girls Rock 2019 and continues to volunteer for Girl Scouts, her church, and her children’s school.

Nichelle Smith
Nichelle Smith headshot

ichelle Smith was raised in Anchorage and earned her BS in civil engineering from UAA and MBS in construction management from Auburn University.

Smith started her career as an intern with the US Army Corps of Engineers. She went on to become a project engineer working on projects in Alaska, California, and Arizona. She’s worked on many exciting and diverse projects, including renovation and new construction for airports, marine facilities, beach erosions and slope protection, border fencing, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, Veterans Administration hospitals, and FEMA emergency facilities. She currently works as a senior engineer with R&M Consultants. In 2002, Smith was recognized by Black Engineer magazine as a Modern-Day Technology Leader.

Smith recently served as the full-time on-site field inspector for the construction of the new Mertarvik townsite (relocation site for Newtok Village). The project included working with the contractor and the Department of Defense Military Innovative Readiness Training program. This new construction included thirteen homes, townsite roads, power plant with overhead distribution, sewage and water treatment plants, bulk fuel facility, landfill, a school, and quarry development.

Smith has remained active in the community since she was a teenager. She is involved in numerous professional and volunteer organizations, most recently volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Friends of the Library, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Alaska Chapter, WPLAK, and NAWIC.

Olga Stewart
Olga Stewart headshot

lga Stewart was born and raised in rural western New York on a family dairy farm. She joined a newly-fashioned Integrated Business and Engineering program at Lehigh University, earning a business degree in 2005 and a materials science engineering degree in 2006. Looking for adventure, she drove her untrustworthy Saab hatchback to Alaska in 2007 and fell into environmental engineering consulting, getting her PE in 2013. It has been a good fit.

Stewart works for Geosyntec Consultants on a variety of projects for several clients, spanning site characterization, remediation, environmental compliance, and spill prevention. She excels in utilizing data and data visualization to develop forward-thinking, strategic, risk-based remedial approaches for clients. She highly values fieldwork and has developed innovative mobile solutions to better provide field teams with data at their fingertips for informed field decision-making. Stewart helped execute three large field projects between April and September: a PCB-cleanup in Delta Junction, a heavy metals risk assessment on Ogliuga Island, and a fuel site characterization on Great Sitkin Island. Other notable work includes a trichloroethene site in Aniak, several National Park Service and FAA fuel sites across Alaska, North Slope oil field sites, US Coast Guard Kodiak sites, and several Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and US Army Corps of Engineers sites across the state.

Involvement in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) has been an integral part of Stewart’s career. She joined SWE as a freshman at Lehigh, transferring to the Twin Tiers Section of SWE while working at Corning, and then transferring to the Greatland Section when she moved to Alaska. She has maintained a strong connection, serving as president from 2017 to 2020. She has had great mentors over her career and tries to pay that forward with outreach to students, including via Dimond High’s Smart Girls Rock, Anchorage School District Gifted Mentor Program, and SWE’s High School Scholarship Program.