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AECOM supports exciting future of two engineering sisters

 November 22, 2015

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Meline Baghdasarian is a cognizant system engineer at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant in Washington, United States. She also has a journal publication in Physics of Fluids on numerical modeling of thermally stratified spin up flows and is a member of Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma engineering honor societies. One of Meline’s greatest enjoyments is exploring the tri-cities through her 30-mile bike rides near the Columbia River.

Arsine Baghdasarian is a cognizant system engineer at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant and is the lead author of an American Society of Mechanical Engineers conference paper on experimental research of energy efficiency in buildings. Arsine is a lifetime member of Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma engineering honor societies. Aside from her role as an engineer, she enjoys painting, swimming, and hiking the Badger Mountain.

They were born to an Armenian family and raised in Tehran, Iran. As teenagers, they immigrated to the United States with their parents in 2004. They recall their first day of school in California, carrying a dictionary to our math class. They remember completing all of the problems at the end of the chapters since, oddly enough, they didn't understand the meaning of “odd numbers only.” They received praise for going above and beyond the required assignment, yet, little did anyone know that they struggled to comprehend simple directions in English.

As teenagers, they thought learning English was the most difficult thing in the world, until they attended college and took thermodynamics. As first-generation college students, this was the beginning of their journey into the mysterious world of mechanical engineering. For quite a while, the word “diversity” was ambiguous to them until they joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Upon serving as officers of SWE, they became involved in the community and helped inspire younger female students to truly enjoy their physics and math classes.

Before graduating from college, Meline completed an internship at a waste-to-energy power plant while pursuing her master’s degree specializing in thermofluids. Simultaneously, Arsine had the opportunity to move to the state of Washington for the summer and join the team working on the Hanford Nuclear Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant.

After receiving their degrees from California State University, Los Angeles, they both relocated to Richland, Washington, as cognizant system engineers at AECOM to work on the construction of the world’s largest nuclear waste treatment plant. This was the turning point in their professional careers.

A total of 56 million gallons of nuclear waste is stored underground at the Hanford Site - the remains of the plutonium production from World War II and the Cold War era. Many of these tanks have leaked, threatening the Columbia River and the surrounding community. The project’s ongoing efforts relate to stabilising the waste by building and commissioning a nuclear waste immobilization facility.

They started their careers with the Plant Engineering department, working on mechanical handing systems to justify that high radiation and contamination areas can be maintained remotely in the future. Being part of AECOM has given them the opportunity to collaborate with a talented team to solve one of the most critical environmental efforts of all time. Upon graduating from college, they were both determined to pursue a career with a valuable purpose, work with a wonderful team, and learn how to cook while living on their own! AECOM provided an opportunity to achieve all three of these goals.

They've now realized that challenges are opportunities not to be avoided but to be embraced. They believe that embracing challenges leads to discovery - discovery of new people, discovery of information, and discovery of themselves. Over the years, they’ve written valuable chapters in their lives, and this is just the beginning of a new one.

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