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Meet the CH2M star in “Dream Big”

Meet one of the stars of “Dream Big: Engineering Our World”, Menzer Pehlivan, a geotechnical engineer based out of the CH2M Seattle office.

On December 15, 2017, CH2M HILL Companies Ltd. (CH2M) became part of Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. (Jacobs). CH2M is now a wholly owned direct subsidiary of Jacobs.

It’s Engineers Week, a great time for us to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world, increase public dialogue about the need for engineers and bring engineering to life for kids, educators and parents. The great thing though is that this is more than just a week-long event, it’s a time for all of us to start dreaming BIG!

Dream Big

Speaking of “Dream Big”, if you haven’t heard about it yet, check this out! “Dream Big: Engineering Our World is a first of its kind film produced for IMAX and giant screen theaters. It takes viewers on a journey of discovery from the world’s tallest building to a bridge higher than the clouds and to a solar car race across Australia. The film shows more than the ingenuity behind these marvels—it reveals the heart that drives engineers to create better lives for people.

Meet one of the stars, our very own Menzer Pehlivan, a geotechnical engineer based out of the CH2M Seattle office. How cool is that? We have a movie star on our team!

Learn more about Menzer

“I was a 13-year-old living in the capital city of Ankara, located approximately in the center of Turkey, when the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake (also referred to as the I˙zmit earthquake) hit the northwest region of the country at 3:30 a.m. on August 17, 1999. Although the epicenter of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was approximately 200 miles away from our hometown, my family and I awoke in fear because of the strong shaking in our apartment,” said Menzer.

Menzer’s family survived the quake mostly unscathed, but their country had not. A huge portion of northwest Turkey was reduced to rubble. City block after city block had collapsed, and the death toll climbed by thousands. Pehlivan was not content to process the tragedy through the eyes of a typical young teenager.

She wanted answers. She wanted to help. And that’s how her civil engineering career began.

“The 1999 earthquake definitely played a huge role,” said Menzer, Ph.D., P.E., A.M.ASCE, now a geotechnical engineer and one of the ASCE 2016 New Faces of Civil Engineering Professionals.

She began studying civil engineering. For her master’s research she analyzed the same kind of soil liquefaction that plagued Turkey during the Izmit earthquake.

To help fulfill her dream of mitigating the effects of natural disasters, Menzer went on to study civil engineering at the Middle East Technical University, in Ankara. In her undergraduate work, she reviewed the 1999 earthquake and examined the facts that thousands of lives could have been saved if the structures had been designed to satisfy life safety criteria. This inspired her to focus on earthquake engineering during my graduate studies with a strong desire to help reduce risk and increase resiliency ahead of future natural disasters.

“My master’s studies focused on the phenomenon of soil liquefaction, which was one of the main causes of the failures that occurred in the Kocaeli earthquake. Later, during my doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Austin, I focused on the effects of variable site conditions and associated uncertainties on the site response and on incorporating those uncertainties into the probabilistic prediction of ground response during earthquake shaking. For such critical structures as nuclear facilities, which are designed to have extremely low probabilities of failure, incorporating the uncertainties associated with site response analyses can play a crucial role in seismic design,” she added.

But while it seems like Menzer was destined to follow this career path from the start, she met hesitation at first.

“During my second grade in high school, my favorite teacher asked the class what they wanted to be. In Turkey, there is a university exam you must take, and all of the boys in my class usually say they want to become an engineer. And that’s what I said too. But my teacher’s first, immediate response was ‘Menzer, come on. You cannot be a civil engineer.’ And my gut reaction was, ‘Well, why not?” said Menzer.

In Turkey there are public and private schools, but in order to get into the public schools that offered civil engineering (because private did not at that time), you needed to score within the top 2,000 of 2.5 million students to get into the program.

“In fact, I was the only one of my classmates to become a civil engineer,” Menzer said. “There’s something really triggering when someone says you cannot do something, and it was a huge encouragement for me.”

And that’s one message Menzer hopes to share with students of all ages, ethnicity and gender through the Dream Big movie.

“I want them to take away the idea that if they can dream big, they can do it. I’d also love for the audience to understand what engineer’s do that makes our lives better every day. Engineers touch everyone’s daily lives,” she said.

Want more Menzer? Make sure to check out and our Facebook and Twitter to see what she’s up to!

Interested in dreaming big with CH2M? We’re hiring! Explore our available opportunities.

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