NSPE Award Winners

Vatsal Shah, P.E.

NSPE 2019 Young Engineer of the Year

Vatsal, or “Dr. V” as known by his many students and colleagues, wears many (hard) hats as a Professional Engineer, avid volunteer, and Professor. In his primary role, Vatsal is currently Senior Associate and Senior Project Engineer in charge of managing and overseeing Mott MacDonald’s geotechnical group across the Northeast and Central US.  In his spare time, he is an enthusiastic adjunct Professor at both NYU Tandon School of Engineering and New Jersey Institute of Technology teaching undergraduate and graduate geotechnical courses, and past-President of the NJ Society of Professional Engineers.

Vatsal comes from a line of engineers and architects, starting with his great-grandfather and father as role models. Since age 17 and through college, Vatsal spent his summers inspecting pile foundations as well as asphalt, concrete, and soil placement and testing. He graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the NJIT Albert Dorman Honors College in Newark, NJ.  After graduating from NJIT, Vatsal joined Mott MacDonald full-time as a civil engineer in its Environmental Division and earned his MSCE and Ph.D part-time in the evenings at NJIT.

While at Mott MacDonald, Vatsal developed his interest in the field of geotechnical engineering. After completing his MSCE in Civil/Geotechnical Engineering, he became licensed and was one of New Jersey’s youngest Professional Engineers at the age of 23.  That same year, he spearheaded the creation of a geotechnical group based out of Iselin, NJ to support Mott MacDonald’s multiple offices across the United States and clients in the tri-state area.  His expertise and persistence has allowed the group to grow to its current size of 17 full-time engineers and technical staff whom he currently oversees.

Outside his professional career, Vatsal remains active in the engineering community with over 12 years of involvement as NJ State coordinator in the National Society of Professional Engineers’-sponsored MATHCOUNTS Program.  He has been an active participant and donor for the Engineers Week (DiscoverE) program for the past five years, and is an active alumnus at NJIT as a Vice President of the Alumni Association. Vatsal currently returns the entirety of any proceeds from teaching at both universities to create annual endowed scholarships for both the civil engineering department and Honors College at his alma mater to help reduce the financial barrier for motivated students interested in pursuing civil engineering as a career. He continues to advocate promoting STEM to middle schoolers and high schoolers as a way to encourage our future generation to discover the value of engineering education and careers.

Read the article from NSPE

Gene R. O’Brien, P.E.

NSPE 2019 Distinguished Service Award

Gene R. O’Brien, has been chosen to received the 2019 Distinguished Service Award from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).  This award is given each year to one member who has excelled in service to the engineering profession and in his community. He will be presented with this coveted award at the NSPE National Convention to be held in Kansas City in July.

O’Brien has served over 50 years in many leadership positions with NSPE as well as its New Jersey affiliate.  For NSPE he served two years as a Vice President on the Board of Directors, representing the 12 state society jurisdictions in the northeastern U.S. While in this capacity he also served on the Executive Committee for one year.  He has chaired three different committees, and he currently serves as the Parliamentarian for the House of Delegates governing body.

For the New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers he served two terms as President in addition to other officer positions. During his presidency he was instrumental in rallying New Jersey Professional Engineers to support advocacy of continuing educational requirements.  Shortly thereafter legislation to effect this change was passed.  Now each practicing Professional Engineer with a New Jersey license must fulfill this requirement to renew licensure.

In his community O’Brien was elected to four three-year terms on the governing body and also served as mayor.  He has chaired the municipal planning board and led a major overhaul in the regulations controlling land use.  More recently, he was reappointed to the planning board and is again serving as its chair.  A major review of the municipal master plan is now being done under his leadership.

During his business career O’Brien was employed in an industry for which his Professional Engineer license, which he earned in 1967, was not required.  Nevertheless he sought the license because of his commitment to the code of ethics promulgated within the profession as well as his commitment to protecting the public’s health and safety.

Following receipt of his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the NJ Institute of Technology he became active in its alumni association.  After serving on numerous committees and in various officer positions, he was elected as the organization’s president.  O’Brien also earned a Masters in Business Administration degree from Rutgers University.

After retirement O’Brien engaged with the Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®).  The organization offers four extra curricula programs for various pre-college age level students to enhance ability in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.   O’Brien helped form a non-profit corporation for which he served two years as Chairman to provide high school-age youth in Delaware, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania with access to the most sophisticated of the four programs, i.e. FIRST Robotics Competition.  In addition to improving STEM abilities, the participants learn life skills like teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication all of which is intended to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.

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