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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

As part of our Member Appreciation Program, we are showcasing a member in our bi-monthly Board Member Spotlight. Our member spotlight recognizes members for their outstanding contributions to the profession and our local communities. For any questions regarding the program please email PastPresident@ymf-oc.org.

January/February

2024

INTRODUCING

Brisa Bernal

Staff Engineer
Diaz-Yourman Geotechnical
CSUF Co-Liaison/Communications Committee Co-Chair
ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum

PERSONAL LIFE

Where did you grow up?
Fullerton, CA - right across the street from CSUF!

What made you want to become an engineer?
My story starts back at the mere age of four years old when I went to a birthday party for a friend whose dad was an architect and I learned about all that entails, leading me to set my sights on pursuing the same thing. Come High school, I had determined that the reason architecture sparked my interest had more to do with the impact it made in people’s lives and all it empowered them to do; where they work, live, and travel. Thanks to a stem program in high school, I later learned what Civil Engineering was and how it had to do with designing and building infrastructure for people to drive, fly, sail, and walk on. This is how I learned I wanted to be part of that work.

Favorite hobbies, sports, and interests outside of engineering?
I love hiking, baking, dressing up in costumes, and collecting whimsical hats.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...
Catching up on sleep or catching up with friends over brunch!

What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?
I attended California State University, Fullerton where I obtained a Bachelor's of science in Civil Engineering. During my time in their ASCE chapter, I was on the Geowall team in 2022, president of the chapter for the 2022-2023 school year, and received the Outstanding Civil Engineering Student award in 2023. I was also involved in Theta Tau, a co-ed Engineering fraternity on campus and SWE my first year in the major.

WORK & PROFESSIONAL LIFE

Describe your responsibilities and some significant projects.
I am a staff engineer at Diaz Yourman where my responsibilities mainly include being out on the field logging soil borings and collecting samples, running various calculations, and assisting with reports for projects that impact trains, planes, roads, and ports. One significant project I have been able to help with has been the lane extension on the I-105 freeway.

What project are you currently working on and what have you accomplished/what are your tasks? 
I’m currently working on the Port of Long Beach (POLB) Pier D Street Realignment Project. My tasks so far have included marking borings, calling them in to dig alert, and logging borings alongside the drillers on site. In the future, I will be helping with the analysis and reporting for pavement, infiltration, and foundation design. I want to particularly highlight the uniqueness of the soils at the POLB and the shallow groundwater. Since Pier D is man-made the soils have a lot of variety and were full of shell fragments. The project site had high levels of traffic from the trucks that drive along Pier D Street to load and unload shipping containers. Their functions are vital and mean that our work in realigning their route is vital, as it will make their jobs that much more efficient. My PM has been showing me the renderings and I look forward to seeing it through!

What is your favorite part about being a Civil Engineer?
My favorite part about being a Civil Engineer is knowing that my work allows people to safely travel, work, and live. It’s all about ethically creating a world where you can rely on structures to support everyday functions. Seeing civil engineering out and about is a nice bonus. I can never see a simple road the same way ever again, and I find myself being unusually interested in seeing what’s going on in a construction site.

What skills do you find most valuable to focus on in your career?
I find my technical writing skills to be one of the most valuable skills to focus on in my career. Being able to clearly and accurately communicate my ideas with others is the most crucial part of ensuring that my work is correctly interpreted. Communication, ultimately, makes the world go round.

What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?
I was drawn by the ability to use natural science to inform my concentration. If I could start my career differently, I think I would have only continued to learn more about how interconnected the various concentrations of civil engineering are. Hydrology, transportation, geotechnical, structural, and construction are all important and affect each other in infrastructure.

ASCE & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

How/Why did you get involved? Why did you choose to stay involved?
I first got involved with ASCE as an undergraduate student at CSUF, when I had newly transferred into the major from Earth Science. At the time, I only knew the big picture of what civil engineers did but wanted to get down to the details and have hands-on experience. I received that technical experience and more through professional development opportunities, ultimately helping me secure internships. Through my involvement I also made friends and memories that I was grateful for. Ultimately, I saw the impact it made on my confidence as a student and future engineer, which motivated me to give back to my chapter and now through YMF.

How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement?
ASCE has continued to empower me to explore all that civil engineering has to offer, which ultimately led me to know that I loved Geotechnical Engineering. It was through a History and Heritage Night career fair, in fact, that I first met my company. Through being involved, I am also constantly learning what my peers do and how it all contributes to big and exciting projects. My favorite benefit of being involved is the relationships I am able to build with people in and outside of my concentration. People of all sorts of different backgrounds, interests, and identities, united by the common goal of carrying out quality, ethical engineering.

Who is someone you Admire and Why?
I admire Mae Jemison for being a perfect example of a ‘first’ working to not make sure there’s many more. As the first African American woman to go to space, she broke barriers for women everywhere. As an engineer and physician, Jemison has always shown her devotion to the greater good of mankind, keeping at the forefront the knowledge that STEM is connected to politics and social welfare. I stand on the shoulders of giants like her, seeing what I may do so the women after me can see farther.

If you have one piece of advice to give to young professionals what would it be?
As a young professional myself, I feel I still need all the advice I can get. What has worked for me so far is advice I got from someone else: “There are no stupid questions except the ones you ask twice. Write it down.”

Lastly, what would be your personal motto?
It would be a quote from Jana Stanfield: “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.”

CHECK OUT PAST OC YMF MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS

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