Rachel Coyner, a University of Nevada, Reno graduate of the College of Engineering, recently was honored as one of 13 young engineers chosen nationally for the New Faces of Engineering Program sponsored by the National Engineers Week Foundation or Eweek. At just 25, Coyner has already made monumental strides in her engineering career and believes her education at the University has been pivotal to her success.
"I am incredibly honored to represent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an Eweek New Face of Engineering," Coyner said. "The Eweek foundation has such a great mission - to attract and cultivate the next generation of engineers and to celebrate the engineering profession."
Eweek, which is a formal coalition of more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies, and more than 50 corporations and government agencies, highlights the interesting, unique work of the brightest young engineers in the United States and their positive contributions to quality of life. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nominated five young engineers from across the country, with Coyner chosen as the top nominee.
Coyner first began working for the U.S. Army Corps during summer 2009 as an undergraduate intern. She was assigned to a construction field office for the summer and enjoyed the excitement of being able to watch a project develop right before her. Following her internship, she was offered a permanent position with the Corps upon her graduation from the University in spring 2010.
Currently, Coyner is a project engineer for the Corps working on several projects at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. The facility, an active veterans' medical center, is nearly 100 years old and has provided unique engineering challenges due to its aging infrastructure. Despite these challenges, Coyner has found the work to be very rewarding.
"It feels great to know we are improving medical care for those who deserve it the most - the men and women who serve our country," Coyner said.
Coyner credits her success thus far in the engineering field to her experiences in the University's civil engineering program, which was ranked among the "best undergraduate engineering programs" in the U.S. News and World Report's annual "best colleges" issue last fall. Construction requires that engineers simultaneously use critical thinking, communication and decision-making skills to ensure that a project stays on track - skills she feels she was able to strongly develop throughout her courses.
"I think that my experiences in the civil engineering program at the University gave me the diverse skill set which I use on a regular basis to solve problems in the engineering field," Coyner said. "UNR realizes that all the math and science classes we take are very important, but the soft skills we gain by learning to communicate effectively are also critical to success."
Coyner encourages aspiring engineers enrolled at the University to get a professional internship and get involved with a professional society. For Coyner, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student chapter at the University shaped her career path by providing her with the opportunity to apply for the Corp of Engineers internship as an undergraduate.
"Internships not only help you figure out whether engineering is the right fit, but will help connect the classroom to real world experience," she said. "My involvement with ASCE has continued to be a great source for networking, technical information and outreach opportunities."
Coyner is passionate about mentoring and encouraging young engineers, especially young women, to explore a career in engineering. The possibility of potentially inspiring young engineers to pursue an engineering degree successfully makes the New Faces of Engineering award even sweeter for Coyner.
"I couldn't be more excited that a future engineer could see my story in USA Today or on the Eweek website and think - she did it, so I can do it too," Coyner said.