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Posted 7/22/2015

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By Patrice Creel
ERDC Public Affairs

VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) will shine by association with Mariely Mejías-Santiago as she receives the Technology Rising Star award at the 20th Women of Color STEM conference, scheduled for October in Detroit, Michigan.  Selected for helping shape future technology, Mejías-Santiago uses her expertise as a research civil engineer in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) Airfields and Pavements Branch, where she specializes in asphalt pavement materials.

Women of Color magazine “shines a spotlight on high-achieving women who have demonstrated the leadership, inventiveness and good old-fashioned gumption needed to excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and business. They are team players, and they are innovators; they will blaze the way for countless generations to come.” The GSL board of directors nominated Mejías-Santiago for the prestigious award, accompanied by personal endorsements from ERDC Director Dr. Jeffery Holland and Corps of Engineers Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick.

“Mariely is such a great asset to the ERDC and the Vicksburg community,” said Evelyn Villanueva, who oversees the GSL awards program, administered through the lab’s executive office. “Not only is she an accomplished researcher, but she is also an enthusiastic contributor to a number of outreach activities that further the STEM fields.”

Mejías-Santiago earned a bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). She is a registered professional engineer and a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Tau Beta Pi Honor Society.

Mejías-Santiago conducts research in the broad area of military airfield pavements, specializing in how to improve their design, maintenance, repair and rehabilitation using new materials and construction practices. As part of her efforts and design guidance on warm-mix asphalt technologies, she has authored or co-authored 18 technical publications, as well as the new Department of Defense Unified Facilities Guide Specification 32-12-15.16, “Warm-Mix Asphalt Airfield Paving.”

“Results of Ms. Mejías-Santiago’s research will provide military engineers with an in-theater method that is not only safe to use but also provides asphalt and soil densities and moisture contents at comparable accuracies to the currently used nuclear methods,” said Dr. John Rushing, Mejías-Santiago’s supervisor as acting chief of GSL’s Airfields and Payments Branch. “This technology will significantly improve the quality of road and airfield pavement construction, often in austere locations. Mariely brings a unique perspective to our research team, and her contributions have led to many exceptional technical achievements, highlighting the benefit ERDC receives from having a diverse workforce.”

With the support of ERDC’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office, Mejías-Santiago organized a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which has continued at ERDC-Vicksburg for the past three years. This program highlights important contributions of Hispanics in America’s development. As president of the Mississippi Professional Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), she supports members for leadership training opportunities, such as SHPE’s National Institute for Leadership Advancement. She also mentors ERDC’s UPRM summer interns and shares a variety of technical activities during their sessions.

“She is an outstanding young professional of great character and discipline, making her truly special,” Villanueva said.

And in October, Mejías-Santiago will add the Technology Rising Star award to her others, which include an ERDC Award for Outstanding Achievement in Equal Employment Opportunity, a Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award (Luminary Honoree) and a Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

"I am very proud of all the contributions many women have made in STEM fields, and I thank Women of Color Magazine for recognizing that,” said Mejías-Santiago.