PacSci Perspectives


Engineer Your Future: An Interview With Dr. Menzer Pehlivan

by | Feb 7, 2017

Meet Dr. Menzer Pehlivan, a specialist in geotechnical engineering at CH2M in Bellevue who works to develop earthquake-safe buildings and one of the engineers featured in the upcoming IMAX documentary, Dream Big 3D.

Dr. Pehlivan was inspired to pursue a career in engineering after the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake in her home country of Turkey. She acquired her Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey and went on to obtain her PhD from University of Texas at Austin. This past year she became a “2016 New Faces of Civil Engineering Professional” through the American Society of Civil Engineers. Soon after, she was contacted by MacGillivery Films to participate in Dream Big 3D, a film documentary that inspires children to pursue careers in engineering.

Dr. Pehlivan’s role in Dream Big features the earthquake-safe structures she worked on and her ambition to build resilient cities and communities. In the movie, she discusses some innovative engineering designs in challenging earthquake prone regions and the importance of advancing the earthquake engineering profession through use of technology. She also touches on her work in Nepal following the Gorkha earthquake and other projects in North and Central America.

Menzer Pehlivan

Dream Big delves into the inspirational story of Civil Engineer Menzer Pehlivan, who as a young girl experienced a devastating earthquake in Turkey. Here, Menzer uses everyday items to demonstrate to children how engineers design and build earthquake-proof structures. Photo from Dream Big, photo credit: Gensler

Though a successful civil engineer with global experience, Dr. Pehlivan acknowledges many challenges still face young women in her field. “There is still a lot of work to be done to attract women to field.” She stresses that civil engineering is perceived as a “man’s field.” That’s part of the reason she got involved in the Dream Big movie. “We need to impress on girls and boys that they can be whatever they want to be. They all have a place—they just need someone to believe in them.”

What is Dr. Pehlivan’s advice for aspiring young scientists?

“Believe in yourself. Civil engineering is one of the most amazing ways to change the world: you can build a bridge, so kids can get safely to school, or you can build a skyscraper that might change the skyline of New York City.”

And her advice for parents:

“Believe in your kids and make sure they know that. There are so many successful women who are civil engineers and running companies that change lives.”

See Dr. Pehlivan on the biggest screen in Washington state when Dream Big opens in the Boeing IMAX® Theater February 17, 2017.