It takes a team to operate our nuclear fleet around-the-clock, including many types of engineers. For National Engineers Week, we’re celebrating the diverse backgrounds of those engineers who help keep our plants running. Meet five engineers who use their passion for problem solving and helping others to generate clean, reliable nuclear energy for communities in the Carolinas. Note: this story was updated Feb. 2019.
When Megan Watkins saw a civil engineer save a large oak tree at an elementary school, she knew engineering was for
her. The engineer was explaining to an excavating crew how to complete an elementary school construction project without affecting the oak. “I loved that he was valuing nature and also working to implement a large school improvement project,” says Watkins. Although Watkins didn’t pursue environmental engineering, she still makes a difference by designing equipment solutions at Robinson Nuclear Plant. “Solutions are not always easy,” says Watkins. “Finding a solution that fits all of the constraints is a challenge, but that challenge is what makes engineering exciting to me!”
The Sci-fi Buff
Envious of the characters on Star Trek and Sliders, this science fiction fan always thought he would pursue a career in physics. But after completing a science and math program at Appalachian State University while in high school, Joe Constant realized engineering was a better fit. Engineering has allowed Constant to “look back after solving a problem and see that I have helped make people’s lives better. There is no greater feeling,” he says. Even before working as an engineer, Constant held odd jobs like lawn maintenance and tutoring that showed him the value of hard work and good customer service, lessons he’s carried through his career. In the words of one of Constant’s favorite engineers, Thomas Edison, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
For Jon Gomes, engineering is all about problem-solving. “Your technical skills can make you a good engineer, but your general ability to solve problems and work with others will make you a valuable engineer,” he said. Gomes knew he wanted to be an engineer after asking his first grade teacher what he needed to study in college in order to design cars. Although he’s not currently producing vehicles, as an engineering assessor, he is helping produce reliable, always-on electricity. “I love the sense of accomplishment when I finally resolve a difficult problem,” Gomes said. “The feeling is even better when you’ve helped a team be successful.”
“To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.” Ashely Marlowe’s favorite quote embodies the type of logical thinking engineers are known for. Although Marlowe has held jobs in a variety of fields – from community outreach to solar energy – they’ve all been related to engineering. “I’ve always liked to help people and I’ve always liked math and science. In high school, I realized that by being an engineer, I could help make peoples’ lives easier and more productive,” says Marlow. At Harris Nuclear Plant, Marlowe does just that by providing clean energy for her neighbors. What’s most rewarding for her is successfully filling a need, even if no one knows it’s been done.
Mr. Fix It
Geoffrey Will loves a good challenge. Looking for a career that would keep him on his toes, Will used the master’s degree in electrical engineering in the Rapid Response or “Fix-it-now” group, as he affectionately called it, at a Constellation Energy plant. He now solves complex problems at Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant. Will's favorite thing about being an engineer is when normal operations are distrupted. “Something breaks and it’s all hands on deck to figure out how to fix it. I think that’s when I learn the most” says Will.
Books Our Engineers are Reading
- “Nothing Like It in the World” by Stephen Ambrose tells the story of building the Transcontinental Railroad.
- “Go Like Hell” by A.J. Baime documents the true story of Henry Ford’s racing team that won the 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race in the late 1960s.
- “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” by David JC MacKay looks at balancing energy use with national independence, climate change and sustainability.