Menzer Pehlivan was just 13 years old, living in the capital city of Ankara, Turkey, when the 1999 Kocaeli earthquake hit. Her family survived mostly unscathed, but their country didn’t.
She wasn’t content to process the tragedy through the eyes of a typical young teenager. She wanted answers. She wanted to help. And that’s how her civil engineering career began.
screenings, events, television and radio appearances
Under 40, Class of 2020 (Engineering News-Record)
magnitude earthquake led her to pursue civil engineering
Public often don't understand that examples of engineering are all around them. Dream Big shines a bright light on some of the world’s most exciting and thought-provoking infrastructure and teaches next generation that if they can dream it, they can be it.
During her undergraduate work, she reviewed the Kocaeli earthquake and was amazed to discover – thousands of lives could have been spared if the structures had been designed to satisfy life safety criteria.
For her master’s research, she focused on the phenomenon of soil liquefaction, one of the main causes of the failures caused by the Kocaeli earthquake. Later, during doctoral studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Menzer looked at the effects of variable site conditions and associated uncertainties on site response and on incorporating those uncertainties into the probabilistic prediction of ground response during earthquake shaking for the design of critical facilities. Her research findings were incorporated in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Seismic Design Manual.
While it seems like Menzer was destined to follow the engineering career path from the start, she met hesitation at first. While all of her male classmates were supported in their aspirations to become engineers, teachers discouraged her similar interest.
But, Menzer says that being told she couldn’t was exactly the encouragement she needed. Turns out, she’s the only one of her high school classmates who became a civil engineer. And what a career she’s led thus far.
“There’s something really triggering when somebody says you cannot do something, and for me, hearing doubts was a huge encouragement for me to become what they said I couldn’t be," she reflects.
Today, she’s Dr. Menzer Pehlivan, geotechnical engineer at Jacobs and one of the stars of McGillivray Freeman’s IMAX film, "Dream Big: Engineering Our World,"which takes viewers on a journey of discovery from the world’s tallest building to a bridge higher than the clouds, showing more than the ingenuity behind these marvels by revealing the heart that drives engineers to create a better world.
Since the film’s release more than two years ago, more than three million people have seen “Dream Big”, and Menzer’s attended more than 400 different screenings, events and television and radio shows in cities around the U.S. and Canada to spread the film’s message to a more diverse generation of engineers of all ages, ethnicity and gender.
At Jacobs, Menzer specializes in seismic hazards analysis, seismic resiliency and performance-based earthquake engineering design of infrastructure systems, hospitals, nuclear facilities and other structures, and leads the Earthquake Engineering Community of Practice. She’s also the global chair of OneWorld, one of our eight Jacobs Employee Network groups, which builds an inclusive environment within our company to nurture and support our diverse employees and clients across all ethnicities and cultures.
One of the American Society of Civil Engineer's 2016 New Faces of Civil Engineering Professionals, youngest recipient of the 2017 President's Medal and 2019 Middle East Technical University Recognition Award and one of Engineering News-Record’sTop 20 Under 40, Class of 2020, she pioneers research projects advancing the state-of-art and state-of-practice of geotechnical earthquake engineering. Menzer holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, and a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
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Engineering News-Record: ENR's National Top 20 Under 40, Class of 2020
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Civil + Structural Engineer Magazine: New 3D IMAX movie aims to bring engineering into the forefront of American culture