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Jefferson Lab engineer among nation's best

Mechanical engineer Celia Whitlatch will receive a HENAAC award in civil engineering in October 2007.

For years, Jefferson Lab has considered Celia Garcia Whitlatch to be one of its most brilliant engineers. Now, others across the country agree.

HENAAC, the national organization formerly known as the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference, has recognized Whitlatch as one of the nation's "best and brightest" engineers. And on Oct. 12 in San Diego, she and 24 other winners will be honored at the 2007 HENAAC Awards Show during the 19th Annual HENAAC Conference.

"I love my work. During my years here I've done projects from one end of the Jefferson Lab campus to the other," says Whitlach, a 12-year Jefferson Lab veteran who is just one of two honorees named by HENAAC in the civil engineering category.

"I enjoy designing, do a lot of my own designs and manage the implementation of those designs throughout the construction process."

Originally from Chicago, Whitlatch's family moved to Arizona when she was 10. She started her college career at Arizona State University on a pre-med scholarship, but soon changed her major to mechanical engineering.

"At first I wasn't even sure what it was all about," she recalled, "but I grew to really love it."

These days, Whitlatch is designing both the process cooling and air conditioning for Jefferson Lab's accelerator recirculation arcs as it prepares to double the power of its electron beam to 12 GeV. This is a technically difficult design whereby the capacity of existing process-cooling systems is increased within very limited space, budget and time constraints. She is also reviewing the mechanical portions of the architect engineers' work on the Lab's proposed new experimental hall, Hall D, and the new Central Helium Liquefier extension.

Before coming to Jefferson Lab, Whitlach worked on helicopters at McDonnell-Douglas and on 737s and 757s for Boeing. She's also worked at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Wintersberg, Ariz. Her first job in the Newport News area was with Navy contractor John J. Mullen Associates Inc., doing pipe design on nuclear submarines.

It was this range of professional achievement that brought her to the attention of HENAAC, where an independent group of representatives from industry, government, military and academia selected here for her award. For the past 18 years HENAAC has been recognizing the nation's best and brightest engineers, scientists and technology experts. A core mission of HENAAC is to highlight and showcase outstanding role models to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology and to motivate professionals to continue to connect with the Hispanic community.


Jefferson Lab, based in Newport News, Va., is a basic physics research facility that studies the particles and forces that make up the nucleus of the atom. The Lab is managed and operated for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science by Jefferson Science Associates, LLC.


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