Unearthing Geotech

In early 2020, Lyssa Lincoln Reed ’07 relocated to Boston to begin a new role as project manager at Haley & Aldrich, one the of the country’s top environmental and geotechnical engineering consultants. As an experienced geotechnical engineer, Reed evaluates soil, rock, groundwater, and man-made materials, particularly their interaction with earth retention systems and structure foundations.

“We are essentially the first step in building a bridge, a skyscraper, a highway, or any major structure,” Reed explains. “We determine how to approach the project from its foundation underground, and we’re typically contracted by an architect or developer.”

Reed, who was drawn to math and science as a student, knew from a relatively young age that a career in engineering was something she wanted to pursue. Originally, however, she thought she wanted to be an architect or work in building design. It was her Taft science teacher Jim Lehner who encouraged Reed to check out civil engineering.

“Mr. Lehner thought engineering would be more my strong suit than design,” Reed shares. “He really pushed me to explore new things and was such an out-of-the-box teacher. He made me feel confident taking a leap to pursue an industry I knew nothing about. I talked to him a lot my first year of college.”

During undergrad at Cornell, Reed initially thought she’d focus on structural engineering, but then she took an introductory course in geotechnical engineering, and that felt more her style.

“Geoengineering just seemed more fun to me,” Reed says. “With structural engineering it’s a lot of crunching numbers, whereas with geotech, you’re always tackling something different.”

Reed graduated from Cornell in 2011 with a B.S. in civil engineering, then stayed at the university an extra year to get her Master of Engineering. Subsequently, she joined Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers in New York, where she worked for eight years before moving to Boston.

Reed, then lab manager at Mueser Rutledge, when they were featured on an episode of Unearthed, testing rock core.

“I was able to work on some pretty remarkable structures during my time in New York,” Reed recalls. “That’s what I’ve loved most about what I do—being able to visit a job site or walk by a building and witness what I’ve designed and brought to life. Seeing the tangible results of all that hard work is incredibly rewarding.”

Reed at the Second Avenue Subway
project in New York City.

Notable projects Reed has worked on include Louis Armstrong Stadium, One Hudson Yards, residential developments along the Highline, The Spiral at 66 Hudson Boulevard, and site development at the World Trade Center, among many others.

As a project manager, Reed now spends less time in the field than she used to.

“When I first started at Mueser Rutledge, I was spending 70 or 80 percent of my time in the field. But now I’m overseeing those inspectors. I’m doing more on the business and management side and working with the design teams. Still, there are constantly new challenges. And even though on one hand that makes my job difficult, I also love that no project is ever the same.”

Haley & Aldrich has more than 800 employees across the U.S., with Boston being the largest of its dozens of offices across 20 states. The company tackles projects all over the globe.

Reed loves her work; she hopes to stay at the firm and grow into more of a leadership role down the road.

“One reason I was eager to join Haley & Aldrich is because they have so many women in leadership positions,” Reed says. “I want to get there one day. I want to inspire young female engineers and show them that exciting opportunities are out there.”

—Carola Lovering Crane ’07