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Civil Engineering Senior on the Road to Earning a Doctorate

Class of 2024 Grad Annabelle Recinos Awarded $33,000 in Scholarships, Full-Ride for Doctoral Program
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Civil engineering student Annabelle Recinos grew up in a rural area on the outskirts of Bakersfield. When it rained, roads became impassable to get to school or work.

Her curiosity about improving infrastructure in rural communities sparked her interest in becoming an engineer. Her father, a mechanic and immigrant from Guatemala, also inspired her to work toward earning a degree in engineering.

This month, the Cal State Fullerton senior and first-generation college student is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. Recinos, an honors student graduating with a 3.97 GPA, plans to attend her commencement ceremony with her family present to celebrate her achievements.

Recinos is also the first in her family to pursue a doctorate and was accepted into six doctoral programs. She received a full-ride scholarship to the master’s and doctoral program in civil engineering at Oregon State University and will begin her studies in the fall.

After earning four associate degrees at Bakersfield College, Recinos transferred to CSUF in fall 2021. Since then, Recinos has been awarded numerous scholarships, totaling over $33,000, to help pay for college and her transportation research projects. 

Graduating McNair Scholars Oscar Sosa Cordova, Minh Bui, Mykayla Miller, and engineering major Annabelle Recinos
Oscar Sosa Cordova, from left, Minh Bui, Mykayla Miller and Annabelle Recinos are among this year’s graduating McNair scholars (Courtesy of Thuan Nguyen)

Recinos is a student in the university’s Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program and among this year’s six graduating scholars. The federally funded program prepares underrepresented and first-generation students for doctoral studies. 

McNair scholars participate in research and write a thesis. Upon completion of their thesis, they are awarded a $2,800 scholarship. Students also receive academic advice and professional development.

To prepare for graduate school, Recinos was also awarded the California State University’s Pre-Doctoral Program Sally Casanova scholarship, Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) research scholarship.

Her career goal is to become an independent researcher in transportation to improve infrastructure materials for roads and bridges.

“I want to reduce the impacts and costs rural residents face when roads become unsafe to drive on from aging or maintenance issues,” Recinos said.

Annabelle Recinos and Pratanu Ghosh, professor of civil and environmental engineering
Annabelle Recinos with faculty adviser Pratanu Ghosh after winning best student project in civil and environmental engineering at the 2023 ECS Student Project Innovation Expo (Courtesy of Annabelle Recinos)

As a McNair scholar, Recinos has investigated different aspects of materials used in the transportation industry, including through a summer research program at Purdue University. She won first place for her poster presentation at Purdue’s research competition.

Recinos has worked on research for the past two years with Pratanu Ghosh, professor of civil and environmental engineering, to address aging transportation infrastructure problems in the U.S. She was awarded a $10,000 Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Transportation-Federal Highway Administration for her thesis project.

Her project focuses on developing a comprehensive service life model of the nation’s concrete infrastructure — the functional life of a concrete structure before major failure happens due to severe cracking and spalling.

Annabelle Recinos in lab
Annabelle Recinos in the lab (Courtesy of Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program)

“This model is a promising solution for reinforced concrete structures to replace and maintain current infrastructure like bridges,” she said. 

Recinos said the research is essential because the U.S. faces major aging infrastructure issues. In 2021, Recinos said the American Society of Civil Engineers graded U.S. infrastructure and found that 7.5% of the country’s bridges were structurally deficient. The main reason is due to chloride-induced corrosion in concrete bridges and pavement.

“This is of great concern because many of these bridges present safety issues,” she said.

Under Ghosh’s guidance, Recinos has presented her research at regional, state and national conferences and co-authored a paper published in Materials Today: Proceedings, an international scientific journal on conference proceedings.

Her college activities include working as a peer tutor in civil engineering to help fellow students succeed and serving as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter.

“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had at CSUF. Dr. Ghosh pushed me to do my best work and build a foundation as a researcher,” Recinos said. “As I close this chapter, I look forward to my next steps of working toward earning my doctorate.”

Debra Cano Ramos