AHS grad recognized in D.C.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Andalusia native Mary Beth Wilkes was among the students recognized by the U.S. Department of Transportation at a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Wilkes, an Andalusia High School graduate and a candidate for a master’s in civil engineering at the University of Alabama, was nominated by a current professor for work on her thesis.

The thesis project is with the Alabama Department of Transportation to update rules and regulations for oversize/overweight loads,

creating a handbook for truckers, and developing a pilot care driver certification program for drivers of the escort vehicles loads.

“Right now, as long as a driver’s license, you’re good,” she said of those who drive the escort vehicles.

She is working with the state department to develop a certification program and how to handle traffic and other issues in case of an emergency. As part of the project, she is studying similar programs in other states.

She was selected from a field of about 10 nominees at UA. In addition to receiving the trip to Washington, she was awarded a cash scholarship.

Wilkes said she chose civil engineering for two reasons.

“I was interested more in math and science, generally,” she said. “And I wanted to do something that helped the public or people in general, so I thought about engineering. In civil engineering, we work on projects from wastewater treatment to safe drinking water to designing roads. It’s all very interesting.”

Wilkes will complete her course work in May and will graduate from UA in August.

Wilkes said she felt well-prepared by her high school education for the challenges of engineering school.

“I will have to say, the math and science programs at Andalusia High School were great,” she said. “Being able to take calculus in high school helped me get that jump start. I was able to not let that overwhelm me.”