2020 Young Engineers of the Year

Sarah Alvarez

Sarah Alvarez


Sarah N. Alvarez, P.E., CFM, is a Project Manager for Texas Department of Transportation Houston District Hydraulics Section. She has over seven years of experience as a hydrologic and hydraulic engineer working on transportation projects in the private sector. Sarah obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and her Master’s degree from University of Houston. She has been in leadership roles with the ASCE Houston Branch since 2014 and has been on the board of direction since 2016. She has previously volunteered on committees and as a committee chair with the ASCE Texas Section. She currently serves as the ASCE Houston Branch President-Elect. Outside of work and ASCE Sarah enjoys spending her time playing soccer, biking the Bayous, and running.

Vanessa Hernandez

Vanessa Hernandez


Vanessa Hernandez, E.I.T. is a Graduate Engineer with 2 years of civil engineering experience focusing on Transportation PS&E and Utility Coordination. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2017.

She currently serves as the Young Member Committee Chair for ASHE and has been an active member of the ASHE Houston Chapter since the chartering ceremony in 2017.

At Entech Civil Engineers, she has been the utility coordinator for major TXDOT San Antonio, TxDOT Waco, and TxDOT Childress District roadway projects as well as participating in OpenRoads Modeling.

She enjoys helping the community by volunteering in the Adopt-A-Highway Program and Habitat for Humanity.

Apoorv Kumar

Apoorv Kumar


Apoorv has been an active member of ASIE since 2014. He has served as Young Member Committee Chair in 2015 & 2016 and has been part of Scholarship committee and Chair for IT Committee in 2018 and 2019. He is a Board of Director at ASIE since 2018.

Apoorv Kumar has over seven years of experience in Construction Industry. He has a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering and Masters degree in Construction Management from Texas A&M University.  He also holds a Masters degree in Project Management from Harrisburg University.

Apoorv currently works for PMG, LLC as a Senior Project Manager, providing design, construction management, inspection and consulting services in the Greater Houston Area. He has worked on water treatment plants, sewage, drainage, roadways, parks and educational projects for several public agencies and private industry clients.

Gabriel Odreman

Gabriel Odreman


Gabriel Odreman, P.E., PMP is a Project Engineer at RPS Infrastructure. He has over 10 years of hybrid experience in roadway design and construction management. At his current position, he is responsible for leading the efforts in design and construction services for various transportation projects. He also functions as the program manager for several Fort Bend County Bond projects. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of Texas and holds the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. He currently serves as the Program Committee Chair for the Houston Hispanics Architects and Engineers (HHAE). As an active member, he is constantly reaching out to engineers to join the organization.

Gabriel was born and raised in Venezuela where he received his B.S in Civil Engineering from Universidad Santa Maria. In 2015, he immigrated with his wife to the United States. He received his M.S. in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University - Kingsville. During this journey, Gabriel has won a national competition for NoCOE, published papers with TxDOT, presented a research publication at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in Washington DC, and taught math to GED students. He is an avid soccer fan and player. Gabriel and his wife are proud immigrants that represent the Hispanic engineers in all communities they are part of. His first baby was born last November and became the joy of their family

Jerry Harness

Jerry Harness


Jerry Harness works as an electric transmission planning engineer at CenterPoint Energy in Houston, TX.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas.  Prior to working in transmission planning, Jerry gained experience in the standards, distribution planning and system reliability workgroups at CenterPoint Energy.  He has provided technical support for CenterPoint Energy’s participation in the Center for the Commercialization of Electric Technologies (CCET) U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) project.  And he has coordinated and supported  various CenterPoint Energy distribution automation and smart grid projects.

 Jerry’s involvement in IEEE began when he joined the standards workgroup in 2007; he was assigned to the team responsible for wire and cable and became the primary for faulted circuit indicators and distribution arrestors.  Jerry became active in the IEEE Standards Association, Power & Energy Society (PES), and the Insulated Conductors Committee(ICC).  He served as Vice-Chair of the B17D Discussion Group (Guide for Faulted Circuit Indicators – IEEE 1610) and attended  the biannual IEEE PES-ICC Meetings.  Jerry is an IEEE Senior Member and a 2018 IEEE VoLT Program graduate.  He has served on the IEEE Houston Section executive committee as the Membership Development Chair since 2018.

 Jerry is also an active member and Webmaster of the Texas Gulf Coast Alumni Chapter of The Tau Beta Pi Association and is the President of the Alpha Jeremiah Genesis Chapter of Gamma Phi Delta Christian Fraternity.

Joey Roberts


Joey Roberts is the Treasurer  for  NSBE Houston Professionals  and manages the Finance Zone including (but not limited to): “balancing the books,” fundraising, 501(c)(3) IRS obligations and QC on all of NSBE HP’s contracts.

Joey is a certified floodplain manager who holds a Bachelors in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Public Administration from Texas A&M University.

Joey works in the public and private sector, having spent 5  years at Cobb, Fendley & Associates, Inc. as a Project Engineer and Project Manager where he  provided various derivatives of public works consulting, broadband design, subsurface utility engineering and utility coordination.

Joey’s goal this year as Treasurer is to raise $75,000 for the chapter, be a good team player and meet his or NSBE HP’s deadlines (whichever is more stringent).

Joey has been a member of NSBE for 4 years and what makes NSBE great to him is producing future black engineers who will hopefully have less information gaps than he did.

In his spare time, Joey  leads his company’s Canstruction effort and has previously served as the design lead for its Sand Castle and July 4th Parade Float competitions. He’s also very invested in spending quality time with his wife, Yunina.

Patricia Bean

Patricia Bean


Patricia “Pacee” Bean, P.E. earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University in 2013. She is a transportation engineer at Costello, Inc. with over six years of experience in roadway design for clients such as TxDOT, Harris County, Fort Bend County, and multiple Toll Road Authorities. She also has experience in utility coordination. Pacee became a Texas Licensed Professional Engineer in 2018.

When she joined the Society of American Military Engineers, she became the Young Member’s Fundraising Chair, in which she organized silent auctions that have raised thousands of dollars toward student scholarships at SAME events. Over the past years, she has held several positions including being on the planning committee for SAME’s first Military Ball. She is currently the Vice President of Programs and the communications chair for SAME’s Run to 2020 Program.

Outside of her career she enjoys jewelry design, traveling, and spoiling her dog.

Maria Rocca

Maria Rocca


Maria Isabel Rocca is a Senior Estimator at McDermott International Inc., where she applies her strong technical background to evaluate and confirm the costs related to labor, equipment, and direct/indirect components required for the execution of offshore-related jobs through the collection and analysis of data provided by the engineering team. Maria in turn provides detailed estimates used for proposal submittals, that upon award cover the cost of the project, including profit, and a contingency reserve.

Originally from Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, she grew up in Albuquerque, NM and relocated to Houston upon graduation, in search of career opportunities.  Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico (UNM), and she has over 11 years of office/field experience in the Oil and Gas Industry, including projects related to Subsea Umbilical Riser Flowline (SURF) Installations and Package Management.

Maria first joined the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers as a student in 2002, and rejoined as an active professional member in 2016. She has a passion for outreach and served as the SHPE Houston Professional Chapter President for the 2018-2019 term, where she worked with like-minded engineers with a similar goal of giving back and inspiring Latino youth to pursue STEM Careers. 

Outside of work, Maria enjoys running, soccer, CrossFit, traveling, volunteering, and spending time with her husband and daughter.

Dr. Ernesto Valbuena

Dr. Ernesto Valbuena


Ernesto Valbuena is a Senior Reservoir Engineer at Chevron, based in Houston, TX. He has over 10 years of experience in the oil and gas industry working on R&D, reservoir simulation, enhanced recovery, pressure transient analysis, and flow assurance. In his current role in the Applied Reservoir Management team for Gulf of Mexico, Ernesto develops technical solutions to improve recovery, accelerate production, and increase value in deep water assets using enhanced oil recovery techniques.

Ernesto has authored more than 14 technical papers and has been recognized for his technical and volunteering achievements. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the SPE Latin American and Caribbean Petroleum Engineering Conference and as a member of the SPE international Reservoir Advisory Board. He served as Chair of the SPE Young Professionals Board in Gulf Coast Section. He holds a PhD degree from Texas A&M University in petroleum engineering.

Tamara Rodriguez Diaz

Tamara Rodriguez Diaz


Tamara Rodriguez Diaz earned her B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM). Upon graduation she started working at TranSystems in Houston, TX. Tamara is an experienced Civil Engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the transportation engineering industry. Her
significant projects have included the analysis and design of highways, local roadways, roadway drainage design, and railway projects. She has worked on projects for a variety of clients including TxDOT, City of Houston, Harris County Toll Road Authority, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, Oldcastle Materials Texas, BNSF, and UPRR. Tamara has been an active member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) since 2010. She is passionate about supporting women in STEM and promoting the education of STEM programs within young girls from K-12. In her free time, you can find her playing volleyball, reading, and traveling.

Kate Hallaway

Kate Hallaway


Kate Hallaway, P.E., CFM has over 15 years of experience as an engineering professional managing and designing complex urban civil infrastructure and construction projects in the greater Houston area and around the state of Texas. She is currently a Project Manager in the Public Works Department at BGE, Inc. working on water and wastewater facility design and large diameter water line projects.  She has worked on a variety of projects including stormwater detention design, channel rehabilitation, floodplain management, wastewater permitting and storm sewer design.   She is a Licensed Professional Engineer and Certified Floodplain Manager.  Her work has allowed her to coordinate with a variety of federal, state and local government agencies along with several public and private utility companies. She has both a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and Master of Business Administration from Rice University. 

Kate has been involved in the Southeast Chapter of the Texas American Water Works Association since 2016 and has served as the Chapter Communications Chair and Membership Chair.  She currently serves as the Chapter Secretary.  In 2019, she served on the Texas Water Planning Team and Co-Chaired the Dodson Drive 5K.  She has previously served on the Association of Rice Alumni Board of Directors and is a former President of the Rice Engineering Alumni Board of Directors.  She currently serves on the Houston Area Road Runners Association Board as Vice President of Communications and is a Houston Marathon Legacy Runner.

Catie Reed

Catie Reid


Catie Reid was born in Houston, TX and has lived in the greater Houston area for most of her life. Catie Reid has worked for Gunda Corporation for 6 years since graduating from Texas A&M with Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees in civil engineering. Catie became a licensed Professional Engineer in January of 2018. She specializes in traffic engineering.

As a student, Catie was an active member in the student chapter of ITE.  She was also a board member for Society of Women Engineers and the TAMU Orchestra Club, and she was on the ASCE Concrete Canoe Planning Committee when the TAMU chapter hosted the event. Catie was inducted into Chi Epsilon, a civil engineering honor society and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society.

Catie has participated with the TexITE Greater Houston Section since finishing school in 2013. She is an active member who attends majority of section meetings. Currently, she is serving on the Younger Member Committee (YMC) for TexITE Houston since its formation in May 2019. Catie served on 2019 TexITE Houston Shrimp Boil Planning Committee and Scholarship Review Committee.

Catie is a leader within her department, training and mentoring younger employees. Her advice is often sought from outside her department when traffic engineering issues come up. She has led the planning and organization of several events within her company, including multiple holiday dinners. She has joined her coworkers in student outreach, mentoring students at Seven Lakes High School for CANstruction.

Outside of ITE, Catie is an active member in Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT) Houston. She previously served on the board for YPT Houston as Deputy Chair in 2018 and as Vice Chair for Programs from 2015 to 2017. Catie is currently an active member of Energy Corridor of Houston Orchestra (ECHO) playing violin. She has been a member since 2016 and attends weekly rehearsals for 3-4 concerts a year. Before its dissolution, she also played with the Houston Heights Orchestra for several years.

Carol Serna

Carol Serna


Carol Serna is a Professional Engineer and Senior Project Manager at Stantec with approximately 12 years of experience in the municipal water and wastewater industry. She graduated from Cornell University with her Bachelor’s in Biological Engineering and her Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering. Carol started her career internationally working on sustainable water treatment plants and has continued her career in Houston. After her move to Houston she began working with MUD Districts and then transitioned to Houston and surrounding City work. In 2017 she spent a month in India working on a non-electric flow paced chlorine doser. She has worked on a wide range of water, wastewater, detention and asset management projects. Her passions lie in projects geared towards sustainability, reuse and wastewater. In her free time Carol enjoys volunteering, gardening and salsa dancing.

Agueda Guerra

Agueda Guerra


Agueda Guerra, PE is a Transportation Engineer at CDM Smith with over 17 years of experience in roadway design and delivery of transportation projects. She is an expert in schematic and final roadway design (PS&E) for highways, freeways, and complex interchanges, and has experience delivering projects for the Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota Departments of Transportation. Ms. Guerra received a BS in Civil Engineering at UNEFA (Armed Forces National University) in Venezuela, and an MA in Management at Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN. Ms. Guerra is a licensed Professional Engineer in Minnesota and Texas.

Ms. Guerra is an active member of the Houston Chapter of WTS. She currently serves as the STEM and Transportation YOU Chair for WTS Houston and has served in this capacity since 2018. Ms. Guerra is responsible for planning STEM related activities and events for middle school and high school female students in the Houston area, to encourage them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.   Ms. Guerra is a strong believer in corporate community outreach and the need of giving back to the community. She resides in Houston with her husband and her 6-year-old daughter and likes to take outdoor walks, bake, and hang out with her friends in her free time.

Rebekkah Sandt


Rebekkah Sandt, PE, is a Project Manager and Group Leader for HR Green’s Water and Wastewater group in Houston, Texas. She is a professional engineer in Texas with over 13 years of experience designing wastewater and potable water projects including wastewater collection lines, lift stations, and treatment processes, potable water lines, ground storage tanks, and booster pumps for a variety of public municipalities. Rebekkah has also assisted clients with grant applications and projects through Texas Community Development Block Grant and the Hazard Mitigation Program, to obtain funding and complete projects for needed infrastructure improvements; and she was the project manager on one of six selected projects for the TWDB’s Asset Management Program for Small Systems pilot program. Within HR Green, Rebekkah co-chairs HeR Green, an outreach and retention group for women within the company.


Rebekkah graduated with a BS in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University in 2006. She is an active member of the Texas Chapter of APWA, Southeast Branch and currently serves as Secretary; she has served as Assistant Secretary and participated as a member of the CIP Briefings Committee and Scholarship Committee. In her free time, Rebekkah enjoys birding, camping, and baking. She volunteers and serves on the PTA board at Pine Shadows Elementary.

Emily Jackson


Emily Jackson is a Process Engineer at INVISTA.  She has 9 years experience as a process engineer and currently is the Subject Matter Expert for Pressure Relief Devices within INVISTA.  She has held lead process engineer roles and supports major capital projects.  Emily has been active within AIChE South Texas Section since 2012, when she first moved to Houston, and held the 2019 AIChE South Texas Section Young Professionals Chair position.  She will continue to support the YPs as Past Chair in 2020.


Emily has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Engineering degree from McNeese State University.  She is an Engineer in Training and is planning on applying for licensure in the next year.  Emily enjoys spending time with her twin boys and getting outdoors and away from the city when she can.  She enjoys reading, crafting, and fitness.