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2024 Maryland Engineering Conference | Presenter Bios

Dr. Zach Berzolla | Maryland Department of the Environment

Topic: Maryland Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Panel

Bio: Dr. Zachary Berzolla is the Building Decarbonization Section Head for the Maryland Department of the Environment. His work focuses on policies and programs to help all Maryland buildings achieve net zero by 2045. He holds a doctorate in Building Technology from MIT where he worked with Professor Christoph Reinhart. At MIT, he studied building retrofit adoption and co-developed, a freely available web tool to help communities identify technology pathways to their emissions reduction goals. Supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Zach collaborated with policymakers from 25 cities on five continents to chart their building decarbonization plans. Prior to MIT, he worked in the commercial buildings group at NREL. Zach holds dual bachelors degrees in Engineering and Physics from Dartmouth and Middlebury College, respectively. 

Dr. James Foulds | University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Topic: AI and Engineering

Bio: Dr. James Foulds is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director of the Online MS program for the Department of Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). His research aims to improve the role of artificial intelligence in society regarding fairness and privacy, and to promote the practice of computational social science. Supporting this work, he earned the NSF CAREER Award (2021). He earned his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of California, Irvine, and he was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Santa Cruz, followed by the University of California, San Diego. His master's and bachelor's degrees were earned with first-class honours at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where he also contributed to the Weka data mining system. He is an author of the upcoming 5th edition of the popular Witten et al. Data Mining textbook.

Katie Harkless, DOE | U.S. Department of Energy

Topic: Federal Clean Energy Programs

Bio: Katie Harkless serves as the Assistant Director of Industrial Demonstrations at OCED (Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations). With more than 20 years of experience leveraging industry expertise to maximize resources and workforce capabilities, Katie has successfully enhanced operational efficiency and exceed standards for performance and service delivery.

Katie joined DOE in 2023 after serving as Head of Energy at RK&K, a full-service planning, engineering, environmental, and construction management/inspection design firm serving a wide range of clients across the U.S.  From 2002 through 2021, Katie held progressively more senior executive and management positions with Washington Gas (WG), a mid-sized utility with about 1,400 employees serving 1.2 million customers in Maryland, Virginia, and DC.

Katie earned an MBA from Loyola Marymount University and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland. 

Caitlyn Johnson, EIT | MK Consulting Engineers

Topic: Bright Futures: High School Site Design and Engineering Mentorship for Young Engineers

Bio: Caitlyn Johnson is a Junior Civil Engineer at MK Consulting Engineers, LLC in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, focusing on Water Resource Management, and a minor in Global Engineering Leadership. In her first year as a site civil design engineer, Caitlyn has contributed to community projects across Maryland, including schools, parks, pools, and intergenerational community centers. Passionate about innovation in stormwater management and accessibility in site design, she thrives on collaborating with diverse teams and is keenly interested in equitable urban redevelopment, embodying a commitment to professional excellence and community enrichment.

Jennifer Leach, PE, LEED AP | BR+A

Topic: Engineering Ethics

Bio: Ms. Leach is a registered engineer, specializing in the design of HVAC systems for healthcare facilities.  Her current engineering focus includes the design of hybrid heating & cooling plants that incorporate simultaneous heating and cooling equipment like heat recovery chillers and air source heat pumps.  It’s challenging work that maximizes our resources and strengthens our commitment to fossil fuel reduction.

In her spare time, Jennifer is an active volunteer for ASHRAE.  At the Chapter level Jennifer has served in many committee chair positions and spent seven years on the board, including Baltimore Chapter President in 07-08.  At the Society level Ms. Leach is currently serving on the Nominating Committee, TC1.7 Business Management and Legal Education and TC6.1 Hydronics and Steam.

Jen’s passion is the recruitment and retention of women in the building industry.  She worked locally to establish the Women in ASHRAE affinity group and followed up by spearheading the initiative for the global Society.  Jennifer takes every opportunity to empower women through mentoring and inspire girls to “be what they see” as a confident role model.

Laura Mason | AMTRAK

Laura Mason is Executive Vice President (EVP), Capital Delivery, serving in this role since January 2022. Laura leads an organization focused on developing and executing all non-recurring and non-Information Technology capital projects, which together allow Amtrak to deliver high-quality service to its customers. Focus areas include fleet acquisitions and facility expansions and upgrades, major stations programs, infrastructure projects — including the Gateway Program — and major third-party projects. With over $50 billion of critical infrastructure, facility and fleet investments in planning and development, Laura leads Amtrak’s efforts to turn its ambitious plans into reality.

Laura joined Amtrak in June 2021 as EVP, Major Program Delivery and was responsible for delivering transformational programs and renewing strategic assets supporting the nation’s intercity passenger rail system.

Prior to Amtrak, Laura served in a variety of leadership roles with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), commonly referred to as Metro, a tri-jurisdictional government agency that operates transit service in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. As EVP of Capital Delivery, she was responsible for project management, engineering and construction of major capital projects, infrastructure renewal, capital program planning, and the scheduling and contracting strategy for WMATA’s entire capital program.

In other roles at WMATA, Laura oversaw engineering, maintenance, transportation and control center functions for fixed infrastructure and rolling stock. As Chief of Maintenance of Way Engineering, she drove rail safety and reliability through improved maintenance, track allocation and new technology. From 2016 to 2017, Laura served as director of Safe Track, a year-long emergency track work program to accelerate three years of work into one year.

Before going to WMATA, Laura spent 12 years at Bechtel Corp., an American engineering, procurement, construction and project management company, where she served in a wide range of roles.

Laura graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering. She earned her Master of Business Administration from Stanford University. She is also a founding member of Engineers Without Borders — Gabon.

James Mirabile, PE | BGE

Topic: Retail Electric Interconnections

Bio: James A. Mirabile, PE is the principal engineer of BGE’s green power connection team.  The GPC Team reviews and approves customer-owned generation projects like solar and batteries and helps developers connect to the grid.  Jim is currently the delegate to NSPE from Maryland and votes for Maryland’s NSPE members.  He is also a past president of MDSPE, IEEE Senior Member, LEED AP O+M, CEA, CEM, and CPQ certified from the Association of Energy Engineers. 

Jim’s professional goal is to encourage licensure among all engineers but especially electrical engineers.  His hobbies include teaching the PE review for electrical power engineering and hiking in Oregon Ridge Park with his two hounds called Marnie and Ginger.

Beth O'Connell, PE | Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works

Topic: Anne Arundel County Water Service Inventory Program

Bio: Beth O'Connell, PE, is a civil and environmental engineer with Anne Arundel County. She graduated from University of Michigan in Civil Engineering and subsequently received her Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University in Environmental Engineering. She serves Anne Arundel County DPW as the Deputy Director for the Bureau of Engineering and is the Chief Engineer. She manages the County's Capital Improvement Plan including the planning, design and construction for both General and Enterprise funded projects with an annual capital budget of more than $600 Million. While she oversees all capital construction projects, Beth has identified several focus areas within the County programs as opportunities for technical advancement including beneficial reuse, asset management, sustainability, and infrastructure and coastal resiliency. In 2023, Beth led Anne Arundel County’s involvement in a Partnership with the White House, showcasing the County’s firm commitment to the identifying and fully replacing lead services lines for its residents. 

Curtis Orshoski | Lee/Shoemaker PLLC

Topic: Demystifying the Claims Process

Bio: Curt understands the business of design professionals. His professional career has been devoted to advising design professionals – from solo practitioners to international firms. Curt has experience in all phases of dispute resolution and takes pride in his ability to evaluate factual and legal arguments, present available options to his client, and develop and implement a strategy consistent with his client’s objectives.

Though Curt’s practice is focused on representing design professionals involved in disputes, he is passionate about helping his clients improve their risk management strategies and contractual risk allocation to avoid or mitigate the impact of claims. Relationships matter, and Curt is committed to building and maintaining relationships with his clients to achieve successful outcomes.

Melinda B. Peters, PE, CCM | RK&K

Ms. Peters has 30 years of experience on major transportation projects. She is a partner with RK&K, where she oversees the firm's Construction and Transportation Groups across the mid-Atlantic region, Texas and Colorado, and provides oversight for planning, roadway design, traffic, structures, geotechnical, surveying, natural and water resources, and construction management/ inspection/ engineering.

Prior to joining RK&K, Melinda worked with the Maryland State Highway Administration and served as its Administrator from 2011 into 2015. In this leadership role, she oversaw a $1.4 billion annual budget and was responsible for more than 3,000 employees who maintained and operated 17,000 miles of state highways and 2,500 bridges.

Melinda received her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic & State University and Master of Business Administration from Mount Saint Mary’s College.  She is an active member of ACEC, ARTBA, WTS and CMAA.  Melinda also serves on several boards including ACEC/MD, APC, and VA Tech Civil Engineering School.

Michael C. Powell | Gordon Feinblatt

Topic: Maryland Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Panel

Bio: Michael is a highly regarded environmental attorney specializing in climate change legislation and regulations. As a Member in the Energy & Environmental practice group at Gordon Feinblatt, he received the 2023 F. Patrick Hughes Award of Excellence for his pivotal role in Maryland’s Climate Change legislation. Michael co-chairs the Mitigation Work Group of the Maryland Climate Change Commission, focusing on developing strategies to achieve the state’s greenhouse gas targets. With over two decades of recognition as one of the Best Lawyers in America®, Michael's practice covers advising companies on compliance with climate change regulations, defending against environmental claims, and negotiating various environmental permits.

Prior to joining Gordon Feinblatt, Michael served as Principal Counsel to the Maryland Department of the Environment, where he was the chief environmental attorney and advisor to the Attorney General on environmental issues. His extensive experience includes drafting significant environmental and energy legislation, such as the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act. Michael's clientele includes Talen Energy, Honeywell, BP, and numerous others, for whom he provides counsel on a wide range of environmental and energy projects, from renewable energy initiatives to brownfield redevelopment. Additionally, Michael is a contributing author to the LexisNexis Practice Guide: Maryland Environmental Law, showcasing his deep expertise in the field.

Luigi Rosa, PE, PMP, CCM | AMTRAK

Luigi is the Amtrak Assistant Vice President for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel Program. He is a Program Executive with over 25 years of experience throughout USA, Europe, and the Middle East in managing mega railway projects. Before joining Amtrak, Luigi worked on several transformational mega projects that changed the lives of millions of people: MTA NY Penn Station Access and East Side Access Projects, the Italian High-Speed Railroad program that revolutionized people’s lifestyle and mobility in Italy, and the Omani National Railway Project that is a crucial initiative shaping Oman’s future towards becoming an oil-free country by 2050.

Ben Roush, PE-ME, PE-FP, LEED AP BD+C, CCP, BEMP, BEAP, CEPE | fsi Engineers

Topic: Maryland Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Panel

Bio: Ben Roush, PE-ME, PE-FP, LEED AP BD+C, CCP, BEMP, BEAP, CEPE, is an experienced mechanical and fire protection engineer and energy auditor and modeler. He brings 21 years of experience supporting efficient building performance through energy audits and models, commissioning (Cx), and design of high-performance systems, and he is a self-described code nerd. His 200+ energy audits and models have included work for Maryland and DC BEPS. He has helped clients with buildings ranging from higher education to complex industrial facilities to find practical energy-efficiency solutions that achieve goals while minimizing maintenance and operating costs for clients.

Ben is passionate about energy code advocacy and education. He is a member of the AIA Maryland Legislative Committee, the co-chair of the AIA Baltimore Committee on the Environment, and a member of the USGBC Energy and Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group developing the energy-related credits for LEED v5. His energy code work has included advocacy for the current Maryland BEPS requirement, including testimony for the original Climate Solutions Now Act that enabled the BEPS. He assisted Baltimore City and Montgomery County in their adoptions of the IgCC in 2018 and 2021, respectively, and presented this information through ASHRAE, USGBC Maryland, AIA Baltimore, and Urban Land Institute to hundreds of participants.

J. Scott Shannon | Lee/Shoemaker PLLC

Topic: Demystifying the Claims Process

Bio: For nearly 20 years, Scott has served as a lead trial lawyer for design professionals in the Mid-Atlantic region. Approaching every engagement with an eye towards developing a cost-effective approach to meet his client’s objectives, Scott draws upon his years of experience to understand the details of the project and the nature of the issues presented in order to develop a thoughtful, cost-effective strategy moving forward.

In every case, Scott immerses himself in the contracts, plans, and specifications at issue. He recognizes how contracts are used in the construction industry to manage and allocate risk. He knows how plans and specifications are supposed to be used in the construction industry. And he understands how to use contract language, plans, and specifications to persuade the fact-finder, whether judge, jury, or arbitrator.

While Scott’s practice is focused on assisting design professionals involved in disputes, he encourages his clients to implement risk management strategies targeted towards avoiding claims. Scott draws upon lessons learned in the courtroom to assist his clients in negotiating for inclusion of risk management provisions in their contracts.

Karli Steranka, PE | Fire and Risk Alliance

Topic: Advances in Building Fire Protection Systems

Bio: Karli is a fire protection engineer with a bachelors and masters degree in Fire Protection Engineering from the University of Maryland. She provides technical support in areas including fire and life y code consulting; occupant evacuation/egress analyses; and performance-based design. She has specific experience with passenger rail and airport terminal buildings, manufacturing facilities, and large area buildings. Karli has applied research experience, attained during graduate studies, using the computational fluid dynamic model, Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS), to model liquid pool fires and assess the feasibility of water mist systems as an alternative to foam fire suppression systems in aircraft hangars.

Ben Wright, PE | Hazen and Sawyer

Topic: Anne Arundel County Water Service Inventory Program

Bio: Ben Wright, PE, is an environmental engineer with Hazen and Sawyer’s Baltimore office. He has over 20 years of experience with a diverse array of projects for the water utility sector. Mr. Wright specializes in providing planning and management of complex utility and technology projects focusing on maximizing benefits and managing potential risks. Through this work he helps utilities address vulnerabilities from regulatory changes, extreme weather, climate change, and aging infrastructure. Currently, he is leading multiple projects across Maryland to comply with USEPA’s Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR). Particular challenges of this regulation include locating historical records, identifying and replacing utilities on private property, and developing a multifaceted public outreach program. LCRR compliance brings together water quality, utility engineering, public policy, finance, archival research, and communications to minimize utility costs and achieve equity for residents. Mr. Wright received his BS in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech and his MS in Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University.