FHU Celebrating our Engineers! 62 licensed engineers, countless contributions to our daily lives. Let's celebrate what engineers do. #EWeek 2022 poster.

It’s Engineers Week and the perfect time to celebrate all the engineers that make our daily lives easier, especially our very own. These are the stories of five talented FHU engineers and how they’re using their skills to reimagine transportation!

Matthew Downey, PE, AICPMatthew Downey riding a bike in Denver

  • Degree: MS, Civil and Environmental Engineering & BS, Civil Engineering
  • Specialty: Multimodal Transportation Planning
  • Registration: Professional Engineer, CO
  • Years at FHU: 7

How does your work make a difference in your community?

The transportation systems in most Midwest and Mountain West communities were first envisioned and developed with a thoroughly auto-centric mindset. Since the days of the Model T, cars have been kings of the American roadway.

As cars became more and more ubiquitous and revered — the private automobile is seen as essential to the “American Dream” — planners and policymakers lost sight of the fact that streets are meant to move people (cars are not people). Many people cannot drive or cannot access a car, while others prefer not to drive if other convenient options are available.

As a multimodal transportation planner, I help communities recenter their streets on people, ensuring streets are safe and comfortable for everyone no matter their specific mobility needs and preferences. My goal with every project is to make it easier for someone to get where they want to go without driving.

People in cars are no more important than anyone else; whether it’s the person who uses a wheelchair and relies on public transit to meet their daily needs, the child whose family cannot afford a car and needs a safe route for biking to school, or the commuter who would rather not pay for downtown parking — an effective transportation system must serve everyone.

Why did you decide to go into the engineering field?

I chose to pursue a career in civil engineering because, as my dad put it during my consideration of college majors, I like the environment and I like building things (specifically Legos). Our built environment has such a huge, and largely negative, impact on the natural environment — I wanted to do my part in reducing that impact by working with communities to function and grow sustainably.

Environmental engineering was initially the discipline I had in mind to specialize in, but a wonderful professor at Iowa State (shout out to Dr. Gritzka!) got me hooked on the world of transportation instead during my junior year. I was fascinated by all that went into developing and maintaining transportation networks and was intrigued by how substantial a role transportation plays in sustainability. I knew instantly this was the world I wanted to be in. From there, I went straight to graduate school in Portland, OR — perhaps the most multimodal city in America — and got to experience and study firsthand how urban transportation should work: buses, bicycles, and trains, oh my!

My time in Portland instilled in me a passion for helping communities reimagine and rebuild their transportation networks to be more sustainable, equitable, safe, and resilient. Although I’ve traded the weirdness of Portland for the wildness of Denver, I have carried that passion with me and will do so for the rest of my career.

What makes you excited about coming to work every day?

The work that FHU does drew me here in the first place, but it’s the people who have kept me here. Every day, I get to work with a group of sharp, dedicated, all-around wonderful humans who share my passion for helping communities rethink mobility to become safer, more equitable, more sustainable, and more livable — it’s truly a delight to commiserate and collaborate with them. My fellow FHUers tolerate my colorful fashion sense, my overwrought all-staff emails, and my obsession with dinosaurs (the original kings of the roadway); I don’t know how I lucked into such an incredible company right out of grad school, but I’m so glad I did.

And the work is really neat too! On any given day, I might find myself developing a new bike map, analyzing bus ridership data, designing separated bike lanes, meeting with community members to discuss issues and ideas, or researching best practices for traffic calming (or possibly all of those things)! The types of projects I get to work on are as diverse as they are important to their respective communities. What we do is valuable, meaningful, and enjoyable. Though the Office Space folks may beg to differ, cubicle jobs can be great!


Rachel Ackermann, PE

Rachel Ackermann hiking

  • Degree: MS, Interdisciplinary Engineering – Systems Engineering; BS, Civil Engineering/Systems Engineering; & BA, Environmental Studies/International Development
  • Specialty: Advanced Mobility
  • Registration: Professional Engineer, CO & WY
  • Years at FHU:5

How does your work make a difference in your community?

The opportunity to engage community leaders and members to fully understand their needs and challenges helps me evaluate solutions with the priorities of the people they will most impact in mind.

Why did you decide to go into the engineering field?

I originally had planned on a career in medicine to help people. However, after a medical service trip in Uganda, I learned that it wasn’t a lack of medical professionals that was the problem, but a lack of infrastructure to get people to the medical services. So, I changed course and pursued a career in civil engineering.

I started my professional career working in energy, specifically energy efficiency and renewable energy to explore ways to optimize efficiency and reliability. My new role on the advanced mobility team allows me to blend my energy and transportation backgrounds to try to optimize transportation technology through a lens of sustainability and mobility.

What makes you excited about coming into work every day?

I love how transportation is the backbone of the city and trying to understand the endless ways that each of our projects has a ripple effect in the community. Working with a diverse team helps to maximize the beneficial ripples.


Sam Sorger, EI

Sam Sorger in the field for construction wearing safety gear

  • Degree: MS, Civil and Structural Engineering & BS, Civil Engineering
  • Specialty: Construction Management and Bridge/Structural Engineering
  • Registration: Engineering Intern, CO
  • Years at FHU: 4

How does your work make a difference in your community?

Being able to see projects to fruition, I get to make a difference by improving bridges, roadways, and drainage elements; partnering with contractors to help them understand the “why” behind what they are building; and building strong relationships with our clients.

Why did you decide to go into the engineering field?

I have always been a problem solver and went into engineering to use that passion to help make a difference.

What makes you excited about coming into work every day?

I enjoy the opportunity to use my knowledge of bridge structures to make sure infrastructure is built right.


Rebekah DeFusco, EI

Rebekah DeFusco outdoors in a wide-brimmed hat

  • Degree: BS, Biological Systems Engineering
  • Specialty: Water Resources
  • Registration: Engineering Intern, NE
  • Years at FHU: 4

How does your work make a difference in your community?

In water resources, I get to work on such a variety of projects — wetland mitigation banks, stream restoration, and other stormwater and drainage projects. Work like this helps make a difference in the community by protecting infrastructure, restoring wildlife habitat, and so much more.

Why did you decide to go into the engineering field?

My older sister Rachel is an engineer, and she was the one who encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in engineering!

What makes you excited about coming into work every day?

The people are truly what makes FHU so special — people care about each other, and they care about the work they do. Each day is an opportunity to learn something new from the many talented FHUers. People are always happy and willing to share their expertise to help me become a better engineer!


Marcus Martinez

Marcus Martinez professional photo

  • Degree: BS, Civil Engineering
  • Specialty: Roadway Design
  • Years at FHU: 1.75

Why did you decide to go into the engineering field?

From a young age I found myself awestruck over feats of engineering such as truss bridges, stack interchanges, and roller coasters. Seeing my older brother graduate from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology inspired me to do the same.

How does your work make a difference in your community?

As a designer, my job is to ensure the highways and streets in our communities are safe and intuitive to maneuver. I look forward to one day driving on a road that I helped design.

What makes you excited about coming into work every day?

The variety of projects I’ve gotten to work on has allowed me to develop so many new skills and competencies. Each day offers something new and interesting. I am fortunate to have a great group of mentors and leaders to guide me in my growth at FHU.