Civil engineering graduate student awarded Jack E. Leisch Fellowship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Civil engineering graduate student Danielle Berman has been awarded the 2017 Jack E. Leisch Fellowship, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The fellowship rewards outstanding professional accomplishments in the fields of geometric design, traffic engineering and transportation planning.

The fellowship honors the late Jack E. Leisch, whose professional civil engineering career spanned more than 54 years and included notable contributions to highway design. Leisch’s most significant contribution was introducing the driver perspective into roadway design planning. By humanizing the design process, he greatly impacted how future highways were created.

The prominence of the fellowship originally intimidated Berman, but after some encouragement from a friend, she chose to apply. The application process included a personal essay, three recommendations, an official transcript and a resume. The personal essay asked students to elaborate on their research area, as well as their professional goals.

While at Penn State, Berman has taken advantage of several opportunities in order to refine her professional goals. She currently serves as president of the Penn State chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers and is an officer for the Penn State chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She also has been heavily involved in the Penn State chapter of Bridges to Prosperity since she was a freshman, joining the team on two bridge builds in Panama and serving as the project manager for the 2016 trip to Candelaria, Panama. 

Berman’s interest in civil engineering came long before college. Growing up near Boston, she was fortunate to have front-row seats to the Big Dig. More formally known as the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, the Big Dig involved re-routing the Central Artery of Interstate 93, the main highway through Boston, into the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel.

“I basically watched them dig out the entire underground highway system, and I always just thought it was really cool,” said Berman. 

Berman applied for the fellowship in May 2017, but it wasn’t until August that she received the news she had been waiting for.

“When I heard I won the fellowship, I couldn’t believe it. I sat there and stared at the email; I was kind of in shock,” said Berman.

The award for winning the fellowship is a $5,000 scholarship, which Berman said she will use to help pay for tuition. Berman was presented with the award at an October ASCE meeting by Joel Leisch, Jack Leisch’s son. At the meeting, Joel Leisch gave a brief presentation on the history of the award, selection process and discussed his father’s research and work. 

Danielle Berman, right, stands with Joel Leisch, who presented her with the the 2017 Jack E. Leisch Fellowship award. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated February 27, 2018