Briella Matsumoto

Scholarship Status: Awarded NA
Scholarship Awarded: Achievement Scholarship
University: CSULB
Date of Graduation: 05/2017


I’ll never forget the scene I witnessed and pain I felt at the shores of Sendai, Japan during my 2011 trip to assist in disaster recovery: in the sand lay a child's ball, broken rice cooker, tire, and traces of concrete foundations for the protective seawalls. The day before, I had arrived in Sendai, four months after the infamous Great East Japan (Tohoku) earthquake and Tsunami. The most poignant moment was our drive to the beachfront past trees bent over a full 90 degrees, where I encountered remnants of retirement homes near the once-scenic coast, as Dr. Kumagai recounted the horror of the 10-meter high walls of water sweeping away all signs of life. Despite growing up in seismically-active regions of California and hearing about the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes, the potential devastation never hit home until I witnessed Sendai. However, in the midst of this disaster, I was greatly impressed by the global response of teams of civil engineers, who assisted in assessing the structural damage and aiding in Japan’s rapid recovery. At the Sendai airport, I marveled at the intersection of civil engineers from many disciplines—structural and geotechnical, transportation, and of course water and environmental—cooperating together with other professionals to develop timely, safe, and economical solutions to recover this important lifeline facility in just one month! Based on that experience and many others, I aspire to become part of a “bridge of hope” in the U.S. and abroad by working on a civil engineering team to design safe infrastructure that will improve the quality of life in society. During my recent semester abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland (including use of the Eurocode!) I observed many similarities in civil engineering education and practice that convinced me that one day I could fulfill my dream to contribute to international disaster relief as a civil engineer. My summer internships in the precast concrete industry with Clark Pacific and Confab California deepened my aspiration but also were quite humbling because I realized how much more I need to develop as a civil engineer. For example, I saw that the best designers consider construction during design and have to think outside-the-box to develop successful solutions like fabricating curved precast panels for the new Apple headquarters and hauling and erecting incredible 165-ft long prestressed concrete girders for the Green Valley bridge (longest girders in California history) to eliminate supporting columns and speed up construction. Finally, I can’t express how much ASCE has meant to my aspiration and professional development, in giving me unique leadership opportunities such as serving as the Secretary of the ASCE student chapter at CSULB with my fellow officers to host this year’s PSWC and connecting me with practicing civil engineers including my great friends at Long Beach State. I owe so much to ASCE for helping me believe that my aspiration is not too ambitious and that one day I will actually achieve my dream.

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