Published: 08 December 2021

Star civil engineering alumni scoops two top awards

Vanessa Burton, who studied on Surrey’s MEng Civil Engineering, has been recognised with both a Ground Engineering Rising Star Award and as joint Young BME Professional of the Year.

Vanessa beat fierce competition to win the Rising Star award in the Ground Engineering Awards on 23 November, presented in a prestigious awards ceremony at The Brewery in London. This followed her success in October when she was named as joint winner of the Young BME Professional of the Year Award by the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE).

Vanessa graduated from Surrey in 2014 and is now an Assistant Engineer at Mott MacDonald.

She says: “To be shortlisted for either of these awards was a fantastic achievement, and actually winning them has been very surreal. When I heard I’d won each of them I was shocked, surprised and elated – and also really proud of myself.”

The Ground Engineering Rising Star Award recognises UK-based geotechnical/geoenvironmental engineers under 30 who have shown innovative thinking or astute business acumen, made a significant contribution to a project, or exceptional technical ability through research.

Vanessa says: “Geotechnical engineering is sometimes known as the ‘dark art’ of civil engineering because it’s very much based on case studies, modelling of scenarios and experience. I was fortunate to be involved in geotechnical engineering through the Surrey/ICE Scholarship Scheme, which paired me with Mott MacDonald. There are so many opportunities in this field of engineering and it’s important to share this with others.”

The AFBE award is given to a young BME engineer who has accomplished highly in their career, but also in the wider community.

“The AFBE awards are important because they showcase people from a BME background who are working in engineering and making a difference,” comments Vanessa. “Growing up in south east London, the rhetoric was sadly not always positive regarding BME and the statistics of young black and minority ethnic (particularly mixed British and Caribbean) girls going to university weren’t fantastic. Those narratives and statistics can be quite daunting – the road feels unreachable before it has even begun.”

“I’ve always wanted to create a positive difference in my work and use the skills I’ve gained in my wider community. Although the path hasn’t always been straightforward, the bumps and obstacles have helped me to grow as a person. These experiences have helped me to find passions I might not have had otherwise.”


Read Vanessa’s article on the ‘hidden’ sector of ground engineering in Ground Engineering Magazine.

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