#WomenExcel: Two Sisters Start a New Chapter at AECOM

#WomenExcel: Two Sisters Start a New Chapter at AECOM

From left: Arsine and Meline as children by the Caspian Sea in Iran.

From left: Arsine and Meline Baghdasarian by the Columbia River in Richland, Washington. Protecting the river and the surrounding community is one of the goals of their current project with AECOM at the Hanford Site.

An image of the Hanford Nuclear Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant with the tank farms shown at top left. (Photo courtesy of Vit Plant)

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Find out how these @AECOM sisters are able to share a career they love! #WomenExcel #AECOMImpact #ILookLikeAnEngineer http://bit.ly/1U44q21
Monday, August 24, 2015 - 9:05am

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Sisters Meline and Arsine Baghdasarian, both cognizant system engineers for AECOM at the Hanford Nuclear Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant in Washington, United States, discuss their journey that led them to start a new chapter in their careers together.

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

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

Before graduating from college, I (Meline) completed an internship at a waste-to-energy power plant while pursuing my master’s degree specializing in thermo-fluids. Simultaneously, I (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 our degrees from California State University, Los Angeles, we 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 our 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 are to stabilize the waste by building and commissioning a nuclear waste immobilization facility.

We started our 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 us the opportunity to collaborate with a talented team to solve one of the most critical environmental efforts of all time. Upon graduating from college, we were both determined to pursue a career with a valuable purpose, work with a wonderful team, and learn how to cook while living on our own! AECOM has granted us the opportunity to achieve all three of these goals.

We have now realized that challenges are opportunities not to be avoided but to be embraced. Embracing these challenges leads to discovery — discovery of new people, information and ourselves. Through all these years, we’ve written valuable chapters in our lives, and this is just the beginning of a new one.

Read more blog posts about how #WomenExcel at AECOM on the AECOM Impact blog!

AECOM is a premier, fully integrated professional and technical services firm positioned to design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets around the world for public- and private-sector clients. The firm’s global staff — including architects, engineers, designers, planners, scientists and management and construction services professionals — serves clients in over 150 countries around the world. AECOM is ranked as the #1 engineering design firm by revenue in Engineering News-Record magazine’s annual industry rankings, and has been recognized by Fortune magazine as a World’s Most Admired Company. The firm is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, oil and gas, water, high-rise buildings and government. AECOM provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering customized and creative solutions that meet the needs of clients’ projects. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM companies, including URS Corporation and Hunt Construction Group, had revenue of approximately $19 billion during the 12 months ended June 30, 2015. More information on AECOM and its services can be found at www.aecom.com

Media Contact:
Ed Mayer
Vice President, Corporate Communications