The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District celebrates National Engineers Week by featuring some of our own engineers who specialize in a range of disciplines, from civil design to hydraulics.
This year’s theme is “Creating the Future.” It’s easy to see how our engineers make the future possible! We have such excellent force who innovates solutions across our district. They impact the future our nation’s infrastructure for generations to come!
The Pittsburgh District employs a workforce of 130 engineer positions across our vast footprint. Occasionally, job opportunities become available for new hire, and they can be found on the USAJOBS website.
If you’re looking for a new path in your engineering future, check us out!
Hydraulic & Hydrology Engineer
Scott Bartholomew is a civil engineer who specializes in hydraulic and hydrology for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District.
He entered federal service later in his engineering career, working for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the private industry before joining the Pittsburgh District three years ago.
“I love being an engineer because of the diversity of projects, the people I have met along my journey and the life-changing career opportunities I have experienced,” he said.
Bartholomew lives just a few minutes away from one of our dams at Shenango River Lake, located in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. He’s currently working on several exciting projects including being a member of the Temporary Power Mission Team, which is made of corps employees who volunteer to deploy anywhere in the country to restore power for communities in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
“What I love most about working for the Pittsburgh District is the people within our organization,” he said.
Bartholomew studied civil engineering with an emphasis on structures at Youngstown State University.
Outside of work, Bartholomew loves running. When training for marathons, Bartholomew would run 70 miles per week, and he has competed in four Boston Marathons and multiple others. He wants to run one last Boston Marathon before putting his competitive running days behind him.
“At the Boston Marathon, you’re competing against the world. It is one of the most prestigious marathons out there,” he said.
Training for marathons requires a dedication to diet, quality sleep and a good work-life balance, which Bartholomew said his current job affords him better than working for the private industry.
His other hobbies include beekeeping, which he has been doing for 10 years, making wine and mead from his honey, restore classic cars, hunting, fishing, smoking meats and collecting bourbon. It sounds like there isn’t a hobby out there that Bartholomew doesn’t like.
“Most importantly, I enjoy spending time with my wife and four daughters!” he said.
Adam Helffrich, professional engineer (P.E.), is a structural engineer who worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District for the past three years, with eight years of consulting engineer experience in the nuclear industry and two in steel fabrication before joining the district.
"My coworkers and supervisors are all fantastic. I love solving problems and seeing something I've worked on being constructed," Helffrich said.
Currently, Helffrich is designing the deep foundation system for the expansion lock that the district will construct at Montgomery Locks and Dam on the upper Ohio River. Additionally, he is designing the drill shafts embedded into the bedrock to support the new chamber’s monolith walls after demolishing the original chamber.
“I enjoy the variety of work the Pittsburgh District does. Since I have been here, I have never worked on the same thing twice. There are always new challenges,” he said.
Compared to working in the private sector, Helffrich said maintaining a healthy work-life balance with the Army Corps is better because the work he does is project-driven instead of profit-driven, which helps realign goals and objectives.
Helffrich earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, specializing in structural design with a focus on nuclear operations and design.
Helffrich’s engineering coworkers specialize in a broad number of disciplines. Together, they are creating the future of the Pittsburgh District’s mission while serving the nation.
Outside of his office life, Helffrich is married with three kids. They enjoy playing cards, board games, and video games. They have yet to beat him at Mario Kart.
Krista Kutzner is a civil engineer who specializes in geotechnical engineering for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. In this portrait, Krista stands on core boxes, which the district uses to store rock core samples from across the region in our geology warehouse.
Kutzner has worked for the corps since 2017 as a student intern. She transferred to full-time in 2019 after graduating from West Virginia University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She earned her Engineer in Training (E.I.T.) certificate and will pursue her professional engineer (P.E.) license next year.
“I love geotechnical engineering because it’s an art just as much as it is a science,” Kutzner said. “You’re working with inconsistent materials that have different properties, so every project is unique and comes with its own challenges. It’s crazy how we can drill so many holes and still not know the entirety of the ground we stand on.”
As much as Kutzner loves studying soil and rocks, she loves the people of the Pittsburgh District most.
“They’re not only my coworkers but my friends,” Kutzner said. “As a young engineer, they empower me to lead with confidence and take on challenges.”
Currently, Kutzner is working to create the future of the Upper Ohio Navigation Mega Project, which is in the process of building new locks at three facilities on the river, and on the Saw Mill Run flood rehabilitation projects.
So what is geotechnical engineering?
The specialty is a sub-discipline of Civil Engineering. Geologists and geotechnical engineers work hand-in-hand. The geologists classify soil and rock types and log the samples to note any abnormalities and weak layers. The geotechnical engineers then characterize the strength of the soil and rock to determine the safest and most effective solution to solve structural problems or needs. That’s just skimming the surface of all a geotechnical engineer does, literally.
“All these factors play an important role in the design and construction of locks, dams, buildings, bridges, roads, retaining walls and more,” Kutzner said.
When Krista isn’t getting her boots and hands dirty in the earth, she loves being in the kitchen cooking and entertaining friends or planning her next solo adventure.
Jim James, professional engineer (P.E.), is a senior geotechnical engineer with more than 30 years of experience. He joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District four years ago.
Over the years, he has provided geotechnical engineering design and project management capabilities for a wide range of dam, transportation and water/wastewater projects. Jim has also served as a construction resident engineer for dam rehabilitation projects.
He said he switched from the private sector to focus his work on dams and levees. Specifically, he wanted to help create the future of the Upper Ohio Navigation Mega Project. Jim had worked on various aspects of all three upper Ohio River dams during his time in the private industry.
“I love being an engineer because it allows me to find better ways to solve new versions of old problems,” Jim said. “In the Pittsburgh District, I have the rewarding opportunity to provide a level of mentorship to our rising and talented personnel in the geotechnical engineering section.”
He said he was also attracted to work for the Pittsburgh District because of the opportunity to work on projects that he has lived nearby for so much of his life and will continue to see for years to come.
This region of the country presents a number of exceptional challenges for geotechnical engineers and geologists including weak, unpredictable soil and bedrock types, landslides, and mine subsidence, Jim said.
Jim earned his bachelor’s and Master of Science degrees in civil engineering from Penn State University and is a licensed professional engineer in California and Pennsylvania.
When Jim is not solving subsurface mysteries for the district, he likes working on home improvement projects, hiking with his family and reading.
Troy Weber is an electrical engineer who specializes in control systems for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District and has been working for the corps for more than two years.
“I love engineering because it allows me to use available tools and apply them to real-world issues. It’s an incredibly rewarding process,” Weber said.
Weber earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh with a minor in Bioengineering. Before working for the corps, Weber programmed automation for a lead-acid battery manufacturer.
“Right now, the most exciting thing I’m working on is the Upper Ohio Navigation Project, specifically the new river chamber at Montgomery Locks and Dam,” he said. “The project will most likely span a good portion of my career, but we’re innovating ways to keep a high-traffic point operational for years to come at an expanded capacity.”
When he is not on the job, Weber enjoys spending time at Kennywood with his kids, getting answers wrong at pub trivia, and cheering for the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.
Ian Dougherty is a mechanical engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. He specializes in mechanical designs, hydraulic systems and large industrial equipment.
He has been with the district for about five years. He started with the Department of the Army intern program and became a full-time employee for the Pittsburgh District after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, where he studied mechanical engineering.
“One of my favorite classes was mechatronics. I got to design, build and program my own machines,” Dougherty said.
During his internship, Dougherty spent time designing machinery for the Soo Locks facility for the Detroit District, where he learned lessons which he applies to his work for the Pittsburgh District every day.
“It feels really rewarding,” he said.
In addition to his federal employee work, Dougherty served four years with the Marine Corps as an aircraft refueler. His favorite experience was a seven-month deployment on the USS Peleliu, during which his ship stopped at 10 different countries for various missions.
“My favorite country was probably Pakistan. I spent about a month there to provide humanitarian assistance to flood victims following a major flood in the summer of 2010,” Dougherty said.
The Pakistani people were incredible to work with and the country’s landscape was beautiful, he said.
Currently, Dougherty is working on multiple projects for the Pittsburgh District including a hydraulic upgrade at Pike Island Locks and Dam in Wheeling, West Virginia; assisting with the chamber construction at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania; and design work for the miter gate operating machinery for Montgomery Locks and Dam on the upper Ohio River.
“It’s exciting to see machinery transform a concept drawing to a physical reality,” Dougherty said.
“It’s been fun to work with contractors and other engineers to get machinery built, shop test the equipment, troubleshoot issues, and witness the installation and commissioning of the machinery for construction projects,” he said.
When Dougherty isn’t designing for the Pittsburgh District, he’s renovating his “fixer upper” home with his wife. On the off chance he’s not doing any labor, Dougherty likes to play video games with a movie on in the background, and his wife reading next to him.
Justin Ford is one of the newest electrical engineers to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District. Justin joined the district’s team of engineers in July 2022, who has grown to appreciate the district’s mission in the region.
“I didn’t realize the importance of the waterways in the Pittsburgh District before joining,” Ford said. “The district’s impact on the community and the local economy makes it more compelling to do my job and support the mission.”
Ford is currently working on the Upper Ohio Navigation Project, which will construct a larger lock chamber at three lock and dam facilities on the Ohio River.
Ford studied electrical engineering and computer engineering at Penn State Behrend in Eerie, Pennsylvania.
He currently serves in the U.S. Air Force Reserve after spending six years on active duty. Outside of work, Ford enjoys spending time with his family, volunteering, exploring the outdoors and tinkering in his workshop or garage.
Geotechnical Engineer, Dam Safety
Carolyn Wehner is a geotechnical engineer who specializes in dam safety for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District.
When Wehner was 19, she joined the district as a student trainee and became full-time in 2017.
Wehner said she loves working with the people and the projects within the Pittsburgh District.
“I really enjoy collaborating with and learning from my co-workers and mentors. Our projects have major benefits for our community, from flood-risk management to recreation. Working on projects that have a huge impact on my community gives me a personal connection and satisfaction,” she said.
Wehner is currently working on risk assessments for the district’s flood-risk management and navigation projects. She is proud of the work she does to create a safer future for our projects and the communities they serve.
Carolyn attended the University of Pittsburgh to earn a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. She later earned her Master of Science in Risk Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University.
Outside the world of engineering and risk management, Wehner enjoys white water rafting, scuba diving, hiking and cooking. She especially enjoys rafting at Ohiopyle State Park, which receives its waters from the district’s own Youghiogheny Dam.
Hydraulics Civil Engineer, Water Management
Megan Gottlieb, professional engineer (P.E.), is a hydraulics civil engineer who specializes in water resources and water management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District.
As the district’s Water Management Unit lead, Gottlieb oversees the lake elevations and water releases for the district’s 16 reservoirs. She follows strict protocols to ensure water-lake elevations are within their allowable levels. The water released downstream helps improve water quality as well as support inland navigation for the greater region. The district reservoirs also hold back water to reduce the damage from floods.
Gottlieb helps create the future of the Pittsburgh region by learning from devastating floods and water quality problems from the past.
“What I love the most about being an engineer is not only solving complex problems but being able to explain to the public why we do what we do,” she said.
Gottlieb has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 2003 and has been with the Pittsburgh District since 2008.
“I have a lot of exciting projects, but for me, I really enjoy the ones that allow me to interface with outside agencies and the public,” she said. “Working for the Corps of Engineers, we get many questions regarding water levels in our region, and I love being able to take my technical engineering knowledge and experience to explain it to someone and see the light bulb go off.”
When Gottlieb isn’t saving the world (or at least the communities in the greater Pittsburgh region) from floods, she enjoys relaxing at home with her daughter and two dogs. She also enjoys indoor spinning, adventuring outdoors and spending time in the great Pacific Northwest.
In addition to being an engineering superstar for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, LeeAnn Shinavski, professional engineer (P.E.), has been a movie extra in eight movies filmed in Pittsburgh: Abduction, American Pastoral, Batman, Love the Coopers, Not Cool, Banshee, Unsinkable and Christmas.
If you want to request her autograph, you can find Shinavski at the Charleroi Locks & Dams on the Monongahela River, where she is responsible for contract administration actions for the construction of a new lock chamber project for the Pittsburgh District.
Shinavski has been with the district for five years as a construction engineer and previously spent 15 years as a hydraulic engineer. She has served 34 years in the industry so far.
“I recently began supervisory work, and am loving every second of it,” she said.
Shinavski expressed her joy in working for the Pittsburgh District because it provides opportunities and rewarding experiences that very few get to enjoy.
She said she has been fortunate to see and be involved with so many amazing construction projects and state-of-the-art facilities all over the country, including walking levee banks of the mighty Mississippi, recording high water marks during historical floods, and observing enormous scale river models inside of airport hangers, just to name a few. Today, she continues to help create the future of engineering by working on the Charleroi construction project, where she watches the future lock being built every day from the bottom of the river, up.
“It’s a sight only a few hundred people will see with their own eyes. I’m truly in awe,” she said.
Shinavski studied civil engineering at Penn State and earned a Master’s in Safety from Marshall University.
Prem Itani, professional engineer (P.E.), is a geotechnical engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District who specializes in the design and construction of earth-retaining structures, locks and dam foundation structures, and more.
Itani designed two retaining walls for an upcoming project, one of which will replace the wall seen in the photo. The new walls will be critical to support soil for a batch plant site to produce concrete for major construction at Montgomery Locks and Dam in Monaca, Pennsylvania.
“This project is one of the most interesting and challenging projects for me as a geotechnical engineer,” Itani said. “The subsurface investigations for this project were conducted in two phases. We evaluated various wall alternatives to deal with the subsurface conditions, concrete batch plant layouts, loading conditions and other project constraints. I enjoyed the design of these retaining walls a lot, and I’m excited to see their construction soon.”
Itani joined the Pittsburgh District in 2017, and he loves being able to help create the future through his design, construction and evaluation of structures that provide safety or comfort to the public.
“I had a dream to join the Army Corps of Engineers while I was studying for my Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Nepal back in 1997. Now, here I am,” Itani said.
“The Pittsburgh District has an amazing work environment with outstanding team effort. Besides the work environment, the city of Pittsburgh itself is an extraordinary place to live,” he said.
Itani studied at Tribhuvan University in Nepal and Lamar University in Texas, earning a Master of Science in Geotechnical and Civil Engineering.
Alex Benedict, engineer-in-training (E.I.T.), is a civil engineer who has been working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District since late 2021. He loves engineering for the corps because of the opportunities it gives him to work on different aspects of the job outside of his discipline like cost, safety, environmental considerations and more.
“The team we have in the Pittsburgh District is great to work with, from the design engineers to the operations folks,” Benedict said. “We have a great team of people that are always willing to help whenever any issue comes up.”
Benedict most recently worked on the construction of a secant pile wall project at Montgomery Locks and Dam, which was the first step toward building a new lock chamber at the facility.
Benedict graduated from Youngstown State University, and when he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family.
“I have an amazing wife and two young children who keep me busy,” he said.
David Conrad, professional engineer (P.E.), is a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District at the Neville Island Resident Office. Conrad has worked for the district more than four years, and he loves being able to make positive contributions to the community where he lives.
“I’m from western Pennsylvania and I get a great sense of pride and accomplishment being able to improve our region’s infrastructure,” Conrad said.
There is no end to the broad scope of construction projects Conrad oversees. He is currently looking forward to a site remediation project in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, and a separate construction project with the Allegheny National Forest.
He said he enjoys interagency projects because they allow for new challenges and different opportunities from routine assignments. Partnering with other agencies allows Conrad and his team of engineers to help create a better future for their communities together.
“One of the aspects of heavy civil work that really speaks to me is the contrast between imprecise and precision work,” Conrad said. “During site work operations, we rely on large machinery to clear large areas often marked out with stakes and spray paint – seemingly not a very precise operation. But as the project progresses, typically more precision is needed to build back whatever we’re constructing. I’ve always been fascinated by the differing levels of detail in every project. I also enjoy interacting with the diversity of people in the construction field.”
Conrad graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and when he’s not at work, he enjoys time with family, backpacking and playing guitar.
Tom O’Buckley, professional engineer (P.E.), has been a civil engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 13 years, two of which have been with the Pittsburgh District. What he loves most about being an engineer is helping to create the future through problem solving.
“No contract is ever perfect, nor plans complete. They require partnership,” O’Buckley said. “Partnership means a commitment to problem solving, and that is what we do every day.”
O’Buckley most recently supervised the completion of a secant wall construction at Montgomery Locks and Dam, which was built underwater to serve as a retaining wall to help stage future construction phases.
The secant wall he helped build allows the Pittsburgh District to remove the weir as part of a construction project that will add a newer, larger lock chamber at the facility.
“The secant wall was my first civil works project, and I had a lot to learn coming from a military construction background. There are similarities, but there are also different fiscal law constraints,” O’Buckley said. “I’m very proud of the team that helped bring this project to fruition on time and on budget.”
Tom studied civil engineering at the Virginia Military Institute and served 32 years in the Army. He enlisted as an armor crewman in 1988 and retired in 2021 as a major. He served overseas in various combat operations, including Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.