The engineering profession has a long and proud tradition in Rochester, with dozens of firms and internationally respected academic programs. Local engineering companies, some with offices in other states, work on projects around the country.
This month, local leaders in the field will be honored for their work by the Rochester Engineering Society. Founded in 1897, RES, has held a gala every year since 1903 to recognize local engineers for outstanding community service. It also applauds activities that promote engineering excellence and leadership in the Rochester area.
The awards will be presented during the society’s 116th annual gala on Saturday, April 14 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. During the gala RES will also award more than $25,000 in scholarships to local high school and college students.
The Engineer of the Year award and the Kate Gleason Young Engineer award recognize individuals in the field for outstanding professional achievements, community service and active promotion of engineering excellence and leadership in the Rochester area.
The Engineer of the Year award this year will be given to Martin E. Gordon, professor and program director for undergraduate studies at RIT, and president and founder of Gordon Engineering.
The Kate Gleason Young Engineer award will be given to Emily M. Smith, vice president and director of transportation at Fisher Associates.
Being honored as finalists for the Kate Gleason Young Engineer award are Brett Eliasz, electrical discipline leader at Bergmann, and Nickolas Vamivakas, associate professor of optics, physics and materials science at the University of Rochester.
Engineers of Distinction are:
- Stephen G. Mischissin, director of utilities and energy management at the University of Rochester
- Donald P. Nims, principal and practice leader of the hydropower group at Bergmann
- Lee M. Loomis, retired, RG&E
- Richard E. Rice, director of project development at M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying.
Engineer of the Year
Martin E. Gordon
Professor and Program Director Undergraduate
Rochester Institute of Technology
Founder and President
Gordon Engineering, PC
A nationally recognized expert in the field of forensic engineering and traffic accident reconstruction, Martin Gordon is also recognized for sharing his knowledge with thousands of aspiring engineers as a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology.
During his 23-year career at RIT, Gordon has developed and taught courses in the field of mechanical engineering. He focuses his studies in the area of forensic engineering and crash reconstruction. Gordon is one of only a few researchers worldwide working on the study of highway safety applied to the deaf community and is currently working on research funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to study the driving performance of deaf drivers.
Gordon also leads his own forensic engineering firm, Gordon Engineering PC, which provides forensic engineering consulting services to the court, attorneys and insurance industries and has performed pro-bono work for successful capital offense appeals. Gordon has testified in court as an expert witness numerous times and works on cases involving traffic accident reconstruction, machinery accidents and product liability. He was recently elected president of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers.
Prior to starting his own company, Gordon served as an engineer and senior consultant for Moog Inc. in East Aurora, Erie County, from 1984 to 2009.
Gordon advocates on the local and national level for various engineering causes and is involved with SAE International. He helped expose regional elementary and middle school students to engineering through SAE’s A World of Motion program and has also served as faculty adviser of RIT’s Baja SAE engineering design program for 23 years. He is the longtime volunteer chief organizer of the Baja SAE Rochester World Challenge, which has brought over 500 university teams to the city since 2005.
A graduate of the University at Buffalo, Gordon is currently completing his dissertation for a Ph.D. in engineering from RIT in the area of highway safety and distracted driving.
– Amanda Renko
Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year
Emily M. Smith
Vice President/Director of Transportation
During her nine-year career at Fisher Associates, Emily Smith has earned a reputation as one of Rochester engineering’s young leaders.
Smith has worked with Fisher since 2008, where she has received recognition for several bridge projects as lead structural engineer. She was promoted to vice president and director of transportation in November 2017.
“In transportation, our engineering skills help shape the vision of the communities that we all live in,” she said. “Our leadership in the development of our infrastructure improves the safety and vitality of the world around us.”
Following her graduation from Stevens Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in structural engineering, Smith accepted a position with Michael Baker International, where she worked on routine bridge rehabilitation and replacement projects as well as a $500 million causeway replacement for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. She was promoted to project manager during her six-year tenure at Baker.
Since starting at Fisher Associates, Smith has been promoted to project manager, head of the firm’s structures group, and transportation group manager for New York. In her current position, she oversees all of Fisher’s New York and Pennsylvania transportation projects and leads continued growth of the firm’s transportation market sector. She also serves as a shareholder and member of the board of directors.
Smith served as assistant project manager and structural engineer for the Centerway Arch Rehabilitation Bridge project in Corning, which received national recognition.
Smith’s community involvement includes serving as the board vice president of Delta Phi Epsilon’s National Development Corp.; serving on the gala committee for the Rochester chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; and working with high school students interested in engineering through Fisher Associates’ involvement with BOCES New Vision Program.
– Amanda Renko
Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year Finalist
Brett C. Eliasz
Electrical Discipline Leader
In his role as leader of Bergmann’s electrical discipline, Brett Eliasz values hard work, continuing education and giving back to the community.
Eliasz worked on a family-owned farm in Wyoming County and was employed part-time as an electrician while obtaining electrical engineering degrees from SUNY Alfred and the University at Buffalo.
“All my work ethic and motivations towards the electrical industry have been derived from my family,” he said. “I’ve certainly gained and learned from their experiences.”
Eliasz started his career at Bergmann as a design engineer in 2004. He became an electrical discipline specialist in 2011, working his way up to the role of discipline leader starting in 2016.
A certified professional engineer in 12 states, Eliasz has served as the electrical lead for various power, communication system, fire alarm, lighting, security system and audiovisual projects. As discipline leader, he is responsible for financial metrics, budget snapshots, technical presentation training, workload projections, quality checks and department standards.
He and his team have helped Bergmann earn awards for their work on the RGRTA Transit Center, Bergmann Tower 280 office renovation, and the renovation and restoration of Hayes Hall on the University at Buffalo campus.
Eliasz values the opportunity to provide expertise to members of his staff and leads biweekly technical meetings on topics they’d like to learn more about. He also provides guidance to younger engineers on the 10-person electrical team, serves as a mentor and helps employees set goals for professional performance.
He works with young students at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy through the Rochester Engineering Society’s tutoring program, participates annually in the Rochester Clean Sweep program, and has been a past participant in the Canstruction program to benefit Foodlink.
– Amanda Renko
Associate Professor of Optics Physics and Materials Science
University of Rochester
A professor of optics, physics and materials science at the University of Rochester, Nickolas Vamivakas trains aspiring engineers while working to further the growing field of optics.
Vamivakas has taught at UR since 2011. He teaches courses to undergraduate and graduate students and is principal investigator of a research group that includes a mix of undergraduates, graduate students pursuing doctorate degrees, and postdoctoral research associates.
An important accomplishment for Vamivakas has been the building of his research lab. “We now work on problems at the frontier of optical science and engineering,” he said. “As part of this effort, I have and continue to train aspiring engineers.” He is also proud of receiving over $11 million in grants over the last six years to support his research, including support from industry partners, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense Science Offices.
Vamivakas works to stay current in the optics field, having published over 60 journal articles and delivered more than 70 invited talks and conference presentations. He is also active in professional service within the international optics community and is passionate about providing young people, particularly grade school students, with pathways to careers in engineering and STEM. Each summer, he runs the Photon Camp at the Institute of Optics, which provides an immersive week-long experience in engineering and optics to Rochester-area high school students. He also supports research internships for high school students in his lab over the summer.
Vamivakas received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Boston University. Prior to joining UR, he served as a fellow, lecturer, lab instructor and post-doctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. He also worked as a consultant with Micron-Thermal Photovoltaic Corp. in Boston, providing theoretical support for a narrow gap thermal photovoltaic project. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife Kristina and three children Ellie, Claire and Max.
– Amanda Renko
Engineer of Distinction
Stephen G. Mischissin
Director of Utilities and Energy Management
University of Rochester
With nearly 30 years’ experience in higher education facilities management, Stephen Mischissin has proven himself as a leader in his field.
Mischissin arrived at the University of Rochester as its director of utilities and energy management in 2010. His career previously took him to Dartmouth College, Stanford University, Williams College and the University of Nevada-Reno.
Mischissin is responsible for supervising 60 employees and supporting the 24/7 operation of campus utilities and building energy management systems for more than 9 million gross square feet of facilities, including Strong Memorial Hospital and Golisano Children’s Hospital. He also monitors energy use and costs and the performance of the university’s central plant, making frequent reports to senior administrators.
Mischissin counts preparing and implementing a sweeping infrastructure assessment and master plan report as one of his greatest accomplishments. Ultimately, the university committed over $100 million to upgrade utility systems over a 10-year period. The plan is currently about 70 percent completed or in progress.
Those projects include expansion of the university’s mid-campus chiller plant, a new electric distribution system and electric substation in partnership with RG&E and several energy reduction upgrades.
Another gratifying project included leading an effort to reduce energy usage in the university’s medical research laboratories, which led to the reduction of outside air needs in the university’s largest research building and a savings of 40 percent of annual energy use.
A graduate of Rutgers University’s mechanical engineering program, Mischissin credits his exposure to thermodynamics in college with helping him choose a career in power generation and HVAC. “It gave me focus and a goal that has served me well my entire career,” he said.
In his management role, Mischissin has been able to mentor and support young engineers and provide them with challenges that helped them grow confident and find early career success.
– Amanda Renko
Donald P. Nims, Jr.
Principal and Practice Leader, Hydropower Group
With his extensive resume, Donald Nims has been a leader in the local engineering community for over 30 years.
Nims has distinguished himself as a practicing professional engineer at all levels: as a construction engineer, design engineer, project engineer, project manager and business leader for dam, highway, bridge and historic lock restoration projects. Currently principal and leader of the hydropower practice at Bergmann, “Don’s background and resourcefulness has been beneficial at bringing the firm into a new market,” says Thomas C. Mitchell, executive vice president at the firm.
For the last five years, he was Bergmann’s director of quality and risk, focused on the firm’s continuous improvement. In that role, he devised and implemented quality improvement plans, developed processes and policies to improve workflow, implemented a social media forum for project managers to communicate best practices and seek advice, created a career development program for project managers, and identified root causes for challenges to achieving cost-efficient and effective quality.
Nims, a graduate of Clarkson University’s civil engineering program, began his career at Bechtel Power Corporation in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He moved to Rochester in 1985 to take a position with Clark Patterson Associates, where he completed the design of over 25 bridges and 20 miles of highway projects. From 2001 to 2005 he served as an associate principal at Wendel Duchscherer in Buffalo.
Nims says his most rewarding professional accomplishment has been “working with a group of experts to design the historic rehabilitation of the Flight of Five locks on the Erie Canal,” which brought forth transformation in the City of Lockport.
As past president of the Rochester Engineering Society and the New York State Society for Professional Engineers, Nims worked to implement mandatory continuing education standards and a new law for permissible forms of ownership. He is also a member of the National Hydropower Association and this summer will join the board of directors of Mary Cariola Children’s Center. He scores tests at the Mathcounts competition for middle school students, interviews scholarship candidates, and speaks often to young engineers to encourage them to pursue professional licensure.
– Amanda Renko
Lee M. Loomis
Rochester Gas and Electric
Over the course of a 50-year career, Lee Loomis has made a large impact on the Rochester community.
Loomis retired as a senior account manager at Rochester Gas and Electric in 2003, after 31 years. From there, he continued lending his expertise for nearly 10 more years as a consultant with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA. There, he led workshops for the EmPower New York energy efficiency program and coordinated the Finger Lakes EnergySMART Communities program.
While at RG&E, Loomis developed and managed research and demonstration projects in energy efficiency, alternate energy technologies, electric vehicles and the interconnection of solar and wind power systems with the electric grid. He later became responsible for managing RG&E’s relationship with its large customer accounts. Loomis managed installation and upgrade of electric and gas services for Monroe County, the city of Rochester, Eastman Kodak Co. Rochester Institute of Technology and other key clients of the utility.
Loomis’ career, which began in 1967, also includes four years as an industrial engineer with Kodak, as well as two years’ service in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970.
A graduate of Clarkson University and RIT’s MBA program, Loomis is a two-time past president of the Rochester Engineering Society and has served on several of its committees. He founded and continues to lead the RES tutoring team at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy in the city district, which brings engineers and other professionals into the school to provide over 2,000 hours of tutoring to students each year.
Loomis has also been involved in several organizations, including American Society of Heating Refrigerating & Air-Conditioning Engineers, Rotary International, the Center for Environmental Initiatives, the Monroe County Environmental Management Council, Prevention Partners, the Southwest YMCA and the United Way of Greater Rochester. He is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church.
“Engineering is not just a profession; it’s the key to a better way of looking at the world. It is organized, rational, collaborative, and it focuses on improving the way in which we interact with our surroundings,” Loomis said. “Engineers have a responsibility, not just to improve the world, but to teach and inspire others.”
– Amanda Renko
Richard E. Rice
Director of Project Development
MJ Engineering and Land Surveying
With a long and storied career in engineering and a history of involvement in the Rochester community, Richard Rice has earned the respect of the Rochester engineering community.
Rice’s successes in engineering and consulting firm management, his involvement with local technical societies, and his dedication in working with local nonprofits have distinguished his long career. He has served as project development director at MJ Engineering and Land Surveying since 2010, where he uses his long-developed connections and expertise to pursue new work opportunities for the company.
After graduating from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace science, Rice became director of operations at Midtown Holdings from 1972 to 1981. While there, he led the design of energy-efficient upgrades, such as a chilled water loop and a gas boiler that saved the company over $1.2 million in energy costs.
In 1981, Rice opened the Rochester office of WKBW Engineers. As district manager, he secured the first engineering design contract at Eastman Kodak Co. for a local firm, opening the door for other Rochester engineers to serve Kodak. The initial Kodak contract led to the firm’s eventual work in over 90 of the company’s buildings.
Rice served as vice president at Erdman Anthony from 1991 to 2001, where he began a mechanical, electric and plumbing department. While there, the firm became the first to provide mechanical designs for Wegmans stores. As director of business development for M/E Engineering from 2001 until 2010, Rice was instrumental in expanding the firm to offices in Albany and Syracuse.
Rice has been involved with multiple technical societies, including the Rochester Engineering Society, where he has served as a board member and past president. He also has a long history of community service. Rice contributed his expertise to the citizens’ committee that guided the creation of what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park. He is a former board chairman of Hochstein Music School and has served on the boards of several local nonprofit organizations. Rice is also an accomplished squash player competing at the national and international levels, and was a 2003 inductee to the University of Rochester Athletic Hall of Fame for multiple sports.
– Amanda Renko