It's #Engineer Week! Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek (February 21–27, 2016) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. Learn more here.
All week LaBella will be highlighting our diverse group of engineering disciplines. Today, meet Melissa Hernandez-Bernier, an electrical engineer.
Name: Melissa Hernandez-Bernier, EIT, LEED GA
Alma Mater: University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
What kind of engineer are you (discipline) and what does that mean in layman's terms? Building Electrical Engineer- Electrical engineers are responsible for designing a safe and reliable electrical system from the generation plant (in my case from the utility pole) to the lights and outlets of a building where you plug in your electronic devices. I work in systems for schools, office spaces, commercial buildings, and etc.
What do you like most about being an engineer? I like not to do the same thing every day. So one day I can be out in the field making a building assessments or taking light readings at a parking lot at night. In the office, I can do lighting design modeling, power, communications and fire alarm design systems. I can work on a school, office, retail space, roadway, parking lots, etc.
What do you like least about being an engineer? There are still few women.
Tell us about a project that you’re proud of. Niagara Falls NY State Park Improvements Project. Being such a recognized landmark in the US, this project not only carried the responsibility of improving visitor’s experience coming to the park each year, but it also represented several challenges to the design team such as upgrading an electric service system more than 50 years old. There was no updated survey base mapping, and underground utility design/coordination had to account for more than 7 construction staging phases to limit the park’s partial closures to the public. So every phase of design had to take into account future phases and provide adequate yet flexible infrastructure. Each completed phase had to be in working order, with minimum power/lighting interruptions. Walkway, parking lot, step and accent lighting were designed with LED technology. Outdoor motion sensing control was provided in parking lot areas to maximize energy savings without compromising visitor’s safety. New electric vehicle charging stations, a new computer-based revenue control system, new visitor’s restrooms, concessions and ticketing were all included. It was also the first time I was introduced to landscape lighting in the design of the Niagara River Rapids which highlighted areas along the river.
What advice would you give someone thinking of becoming an engineer? What does the future hold for engineering? I think engineering (in general) in the consulting business is gearing towards more collaborative interdisciplinary processes, which makes you better understand and visualize other disciplines and how they affect your work and vice versa.
This, along with a growing demand for more energy efficient building systems and the ever changing technology, is creating a design environment of constant change for engineers, which requires a continuous effort of updating your design skills and knowledge to keep up with the changes.
I would advise anyone interested in becoming an engineer to spend some time with an engineer at work, to clarify misconceptions about engineering.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Exercise, cooking, home decorating projects, travel and photography.
What do you like about working at LaBella? I really like it’s diversified working portfolio, as it gives employees the chance to explore different fields. I also like that it’s a professional firm inside and out and encourages a professional work environment.