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2014 Delaware Valley Young Engineer of the Year: Philip M. Gonski, PE

Gonski-new headshot2Introduced in 1990 by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, the annual Young Engineer of the Year award recognizes an outstanding engineer ( age 35 and under) who has demonstrated leadership and has contributed to the engineering profession as well as to charitable, civic and technical organizations. The Engineers’ Club is pleased to present the 25th annual Young Engineer of the Year award to Philip M. Gonski, 28, project manager at Philadelphia-based Keystone Engineering Group, Inc.

All in the Family

Philip Gonski was ”engineered” to be an engineer. The profession runs in his family – both of his grandfathers were engineers, and their recounting of experiences in the field and their many shared field trips to engineering museums took a powerful hold on Philip at a young age. “I knew I wanted to be an engineer when I was in the first grade,” said Gonski.

In the Field

Flash forward: upon graduation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, Gonski accepted a job as an electrical associate in the Fossil Power division of Chicago-based engineering firm Sargent & Lundy. There he took on multi-million dollar local, national and international projects, tackling budget management, technical design and construction support. Chief among them, he worked on a $60 million project in Hawaii, developing the world’s first commercial combustion turbine power plant powered entirely by biofuel. This new plant design provided base-load power to the island, with the ability to respond to a utility blackout by providing start-up power to local coal-fired power plants.

Early on, Gonski showed immense promise as a leader in the electrical engineering field, and was quickly promoted to a senior electrical engineer at Sargent & Lundy – one of the youngest to land that role. “I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by great mentors at Sargent & Lundy from whom I learned every day,” said Gonski. “It was because of their leadership and support that I quickly developed the skills and confidence to take on a greater role in the company.”

In this capacity, Gonski was named a lead engineer for the electrical design of a $1 billion cycle power plant in Saudi Arabia, charged with preparing diagrams and design materials, calculating equipment sizing, and coordinating communications across various continents. “The project was very complex, but I learned so much from my work and was able to sharpen my skills in international relations throughout the process.” Gonski traveled to India for a month to oversee the team, streamline operations, and see the project through to completion. All said and done, the power plant required more than 7,000 electrical drawings and 40 equipment specifications, and employed more than 7,000 construction workers. Today, it stands as one of the world’s largest combined cycle power plants.

At the same time of the Saudi Arabia project, Gonski simultaneously earned his Master’s degree in Power Engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and gaining an increased appreciation for mechanical engineering and power plant design.

Gonski later relocated to Philadelphia and began work as project manager for Keystone Engineering Group, Inc., where he has earned a reputation as an expert in renewable distributed generation power. “The future of electrical engineering lies in renewable energy projects,” he said. He takes a hands-on approach to local, high-profile renewable energy projects, including the restoration and upgrading of electrical infrastructures in waste water plants and train stations – among them a landfill gas-fired generator, a waste gas generator run by plastics production, and a generator powered by anaerobic digestion.

Gonski’s expertise in designing power plants, his deep understanding of system stability and integrity, and his ability to keep up with ever-changing electrical codes and regulations has helped him to connect many small power plants and generators to the local power grid.

In the Community

But the job is never done. A licensed professional engineer in the states of Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky, Gonski continues to stretch himself by studying different engineering disciplines. Whether he is taking classes, guest speaking, assisting at a local science fair, or penning technical articles for trade publications [the likes of which include EC&M Magazine and Waterworld Magazine], Gonski is constantly feeding his curiosity for the engineering field. What’s more, he takes great pride in community involvement. He has served as Secretary, Treasurer and now Chairman of the 4,000-member Philadelphia Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – the largest technical association in the area, and he sits on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers – Valley Forge Chapter.

“I am honored to be chosen by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia for the 2014 Young Engineer of the Year,” said Gonski. “Receiving this award reaffirms my life’s work and my love of engineering.”