As the six finalists for the 2013 Chartered Engineer of the Year Award prepare for the final judging session in 22 Clyde Road this evening, we profile the nominees who are vying for this prestigious title


The six finalists in the running for the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award 2013 have been selected from the engineers who successfully achieved their chartered engineer title in the 12-month period running from June 2012 to June 2013. The winner of this most prestigious title will be selected and announced at this year’s Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards, which will take place in Dublin’s Four Seasons Hotel on 8 November. We take a look at the finalists in the run up to the awards night.


Shortlisted for his contribution to the project ‘The Lumley Tokeh Highway: Meeting the Challenges of Construction Supervision in a Developing Nation’ with Edward Davies & Associates

Daire Cummins graduated from Trinity College in 2004 with an honours degree in civil, structural and environmental engineering. He began his professional career with a specialist geotechnical consulting firm in Dublin, before enrolling in the advanced soil mechanics master’s degree course at Imperial College, London in 2007.

After completing his MSc, Cummins moved to Canada. Working for an Ottawa-based firm specialising in geotechnical, hydrogeological and environmental engineering, he gained project experience in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and also Barbados. Now living in Sierra Leone since 2012, he has joined a local consulting engineering firm in Freetown.

Cummins has worked on a wide portfolio of projects, received a postgraduate award from Imperial College, and was selected by Engineers Ireland to present a case history at the 18th Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference in Italy. He actively engages in his continuing professional development and enjoys advising and mentoring junior engineers and engineering students.

“Engineers Ireland is a highly respected and internationally recognised organisation. I’ve spent most of my career so far working outside of Ireland and living up to the technical and ethical standards set by Engineers Ireland is important to me, particularly in my current work in West Africa where corruption and lack of resources are big challenges,” Cummins told “Becoming a chartered engineer with Engineers Ireland has been a personal goal for me and to be shortlisted for this award is a great honour.”

He credited his teachers in TCD such as Dr Eric Farrell, and also those in Imperial College London, for providing him with a great start to his career. “I’ve also had great guidance and mentorship from my employers, particularly at AGL Consulting where I began my career.”

Cummins’ career so far has been quite varied and he believes this is why he was nominated for the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award. “I’ve worked in Ireland, the UK, Canada and Barbados and Sierra Leone, in conditions ranging from the freezing sub-Arctic winters of northern Canada to the tropical monsoons of the sub-Sahara. This has given me an opportunity to broaden my knowledge and also a new insight into engineering practices on a wide range of projects.”

Cummins originally studied engineering because he was interested in learning about the science behind the things that we use in our everyday lives. “There are always surprises and new things to learn on every job, no matter how big or small. Working as an engineer allows me to make a positive contribution to society, by helping to provide quality infrastructure and services to the public. This gives me a great sense of job satisfaction,” he concluded.


Shortlisted for his contribution to the project ‘Development of a Commercial Scale Tidal Stream Turbine’ with OpenHydro

Kevin Harnett graduated with a bachelor of mechanical engineering from University College Dublin in 2007. He took up a graduate engineer position in OpenHydro Group Ltd whilst pursuing a part time research master’s of engineering science degree under the guidance of Professor Gerald Byrne in UCD. His research investigated the loading patterns in the bearings of the tidal stream turbine designed by OpenHydro.

With the company’s expansion over the years, Harnett developed his experience across a number of functions, including mechanical design, structural analysis, turbine testing and research and development. In 2010, he founded the resource assessment department, specialising in research into extreme environmental loading for tidal stream turbines.

In July 2013, he took up the position of mechanical engineering manager in OpenHydro, responsible for the delivery of mechanical engineering, computer-aided design and resource assessment functions within the rapidly expanding business.

“It’s a great honour for me to have been nominated for the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award; I feel like it’s a validation of the direction I’ve taken in my career,” Harnett told “I’m really looking forward to meeting my fellow nominees and to hear about the exciting projects that they’ve have been working on.”

He felt that he received the nomination as a result of the experience he has gained in helping to build a start-up company. “I think that I’ve been very fortunate in my career to date in that I’ve been in a position from which I’ve been able to demonstrate a range of engineering abilities,” according to Harnett. “As OpenHydro has grown from a start-up to a medium-sized engineering firm in my time working there, I’ve had a broad range of experience from hands-on site work through to detailed computer modelling and simulation – I’ve had a chance to find my strengths and there have been plenty of opportunities to take responsibility and influence the direction that the business is going from a technical point of view.

“With this breadth of experience, I was able to demonstrate the competencies of a professional engineer at quite an early stage in my career.”

Harnett said that engineering presented exciting challenges in a wide variety of industries and applications. It’s a very rewarding career and it’s a great way to get involved in cutting-edge technologies and projects,” he said. “You can make a real difference in society – whether it’s in the renewable energy industry, the medical device industry or any of the other industries that Ireland’s engineers are working in today.”


Shortlisted for his contribution to the project ‘Noise Mapping Ireland’s National Road Network’ with Roughan & O’Donovan 

Dr Eoin King holds a BAI in mechanical engineering and a PhD in acoustics from Trinity College Dublin. His PhD developed a practical framework for undertaking strategic noise mapping in Europe. In January 2008, he was awarded a post-doctoral research fellowship with the National Roads Authority (NRA), with the primary objective of preparing the NRA to meet its noise-mapping commitments in 2012. During this time, he became the Irish course co-ordinator for the Institute of Acoustics’ (UK) distance-learning diploma in acoustics and noise control.

Dr King’s acoustics consultancy, Infrasonic Ltd, was awarded an Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Ireland in 2009. In June 2012, he joined Roughan & O’Donovan as an acoustics engineer, working with the NRA to develop the largest and most complex strategic noise maps prepared in Ireland to date. In August 2013, he was appointed as a professor at the University of Hartford, USA.

“I come from quite a focused academic background; my PhD and post-doctoral position concentrated on strategic noise mapping. My project gave me chance to apply this academic experience in a real-world setting,” said Dr King. “For my peers to recognise the success of this practical implementation means I succeeded in progressing from theoretical concepts to the real-world implementation of these concepts. This means even more to me now that I’ve moved to the US. It’s great to be able to point to this nomination as positive support from the leading experts in Ireland.”

Environmental noise is a relatively new concern – best practice is still being developed in the area and Dr King has been involved in these discussions. He surmises that this one was of the reasons why he was nominated.

“My project developed noise maps for over 4,000km of major roads and involved the co-ordination of local authorities in every county in Ireland. I think the project represents a great showcase for environmental assessments in Ireland given the national scale of the project, the innovative methodologies implemented and the wide participation of all stakeholders.”

Engineering is probably the most flexible training you can get, he believes. “An engineer is trained in solving problems and this problem-solving skill is highly transferable. It can be transferred to any discipline down the line,” he said. “Engineering also crosses national boundaries; it offers the opportunity to collaborate with experts from all across the world. I’m really enjoying working in the USA and the exciting thing is that everything I learn here will be equally relevant in Ireland.”


Shortlisted for her contribution to the project ‘Moyle Interconnector HVDC Cable Repair’ with ESB International

Claire Looney graduated from University College Cork in 2004 with an honours degree in electrical and electronic engineering and joined ESB International as a graduate engineer.

She has extensive experience in high voltage, having spent over three years working in the HV cables department in ESB International. She has worked as a design engineer and design co-ordinator on high-voltage transmission cable projects.

In 2008, she spent six months working as a sub-station design co-ordinator in Connell Wagner, Sydney. She subsequently returned to ESB International and is currently a professional engineer in ESBI Engineering’s EirGrid team, working predominantly as a client engineer on EirGrid projects in the areas of HV cables and sub-stations. In 2010, Looney received a diploma in financial management from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Originally from Skibbereen, Co. Cork, she now lives in Harolds Cross, Dublin.

“It’s a great honour to be nominated for Chartered Engineer of the Year,” Looney told “It’s not often that your engineering capabilities are judged or accredited by an impartial audience and particularly by people that don’t know you. It’s the chance to showcase your work and hopefully get an insight into what other engineers in other disciplines are doing.”

On the day of the interview for chartered status, Looney was solely focused on attaining the title and not the competition. “As to why I was subsequently nominated, I think I’m enthusiastic about my work and have strong interpersonal skills. I have a good mix of experience and hopefully strong communication skills. I’m very interested in the development of young engineers and where possible try to give a bit of guidance, while of course learning from my more senior colleagues myself.”

Engineering has been very good to Looney, she believes, as it has afforded her the opportunity to travel, work on site and in an office environment, to work on mulit-disciplined teams and meet many different people. “Engineering is one of those unusual career paths that’s both defined and not defined at the same time,” she said. “When you graduate, you’re certainly an engineer but your career path is up to you, the choices you make and experience you get. In Ireland for me, it’s also quite a level playing field as a female engineer and this isn’t always the international norm,” she added.


Shortlisted for her contribution to the project ‘Laggan Tomore – Shetland Gas Plant’  with Roadbridge

Laura Tobin graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2007 with a first-class honours degree in civil engineering. She was employed by Roadbridge as a site engineer on the Corrib Gas Project in Co Mayo, where she worked for three years on the Onshore Terminal and Landfall Site.

In 2010, Tobin progressed to position of project engineer on the Earthworks Contract for the Shetland Gas Plant. On completion and successful handover of this project, she returned to the Corrib Gas Project where construction of the onshore pipeline was to begin, and took on the role of both project engineer and planner.

Tobin was awarded chartered engineer status in November 2012. She also went on to complete the CPD Diploma in Professional Engineering in June 2013. She emigrated to Australia in January 2013 and is now working as a project manager with Reilly Contractors in Perth.

“When I learned that it was my interview panel from my professional review that had put me forward for the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award, it was a very proud moment,” said Tobin. “I’d worked extremely hard on my submission and on my presentation for the interview, and to hear that the panel had recognised this was very rewarding. Gaining chartered status in itself was worth all the hard work, but this recognition made it even more so.”

Tobin felt she was nominated because she demonstrated all of the competencies of a chartered engineer at different stages throughout her career. She has worked on some large multi-disciplinary projects in the oil and gas industry, and gained a lot of varied experience.

“I also took part in the pilot of the Engineers Ireland Professional Progression Programme, which enabled me to enhance my learning in some of the softer skills, and opened my eyes to new ideas and ways of thinking. The six finalists represent a wide range of disciplines and projects, and I think that I’m a good representative for my own discipline.”

Tobin believes that engineering offers a lot of opportunities worldwide and a multitude of projects with which to get involved. “It’s is a career where you’re continuously challenged, and no two days are the same. There’s always a problem to be solved, and it’s an industry that encourages new and innovative ways of thinking,” she concluded.


Shortlisted for his contribution to the project ‘The Redevelopment of Thomond Park’ with Punch Consulting

A native of Limerick, Bryan Whelan graduated with a first-class honours degree in civil engineering from NUI, Galway in 2004. Having spent a number of summers during secondary school and college working in the engineering industry, he chose consultancy as the first step in his career and started with Michael Punch and Partners upon leaving college, where he is now a senior engineer.

Whelan has worked extensively throughout Ireland, the UK and Saudi Arabia, and has gained an excellent range of experience in almost a decade since finishing his third-level education, particularly in the development of large-scale mixed developments and the technology and pharmaceutical industries.

He has been conferred with the Murray Buxton Award by the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Morgan Sheehy Medal by Engineers Ireland. Whelan’s next educational milestone is a master’s in business administration, which he hopes to undertake in 2015.

Among the many projects he has worked on was the redevelopment of Thomond Park rugby stadium in Limerick. This project has been honoured by the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland, winning the President’s Award for Excellence in Structural Design. It has also received the People’s Choice Award from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland.

“It’s a real honour to be nominated for this award, to be honest, as I’ve attended the presentation evenings in the past and have seen the calibre of people who are generally shortlisted,” said Whelan. “Notwithstanding the overall result from this point onward, I’m absolutely delighted to have made it this far.”

With regard to the reasons for his nomination, Whelan believes that his application submittal and interview showed his experience to be relatively broad, and not just based on ‘number crunching’. “I also feel strongly that our professional offering is undervalued in the marketplace and misunderstood by the public,” he added. “I think that my views on the importance of changing these perceptions stood out in my essays.”

Whelan has a passion for engineering and believes that the profession can be a gateway to any number of careers. “We have superb third-level facilities in Ireland, and graduates emerge with an ability to think for themselves, solve problems and lead groups of people,” he told “Engineering is not just about the calculations and I think that anybody looking for a dynamic work environment and a qualification that’s valid worldwide would be well advised to consider it.” O'RiordanNewschartered,Engineers Ireland
  The six finalists in the running for the Chartered Engineer of the Year Award 2013 have been selected from the engineers who successfully achieved their chartered engineer title in the 12-month period running from June 2012 to June 2013. The winner of this most prestigious title will be selected and announced...