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Engineering Is in Their DNA

When Michael Nmair received his bachelor’s degree in civil and infrastructure engineering in May, he was following in the footsteps of his older brother and sisters. In the past three years, all three of his siblings—Sammy, Renee, and Nicole—earned undergraduate degrees in civil and infrastructure engineering from Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering [1].

They’ve also either earned or are working on accelerated master’s degrees from the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. [2]


The Nmair family from left, Sammy, Nicole, Nael (dad), Rana (mom), Renee, and Michael. Photo provided.

A love of engineering runs in the family. Their father, Nael, is an electrical engineer, and their mother, Rana, is a civil engineer. Both work for the federal government.

“We have engineering in our DNA,” says Nicole, BS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’16, MS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’18. She currently works as a bridge engineer for the Federal Highway Administration.

The tradition of attending Volgenau started with Renee, BS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’16, MS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’18, who is now a construction manager for Arlington County in Virginia.

Nicole, Renee, and Sammy sometimes had classes together, but they often studied independently. “If I didn’t understand something, I could ask a sibling,” Nicole says.

Sammy, BS Civil and Infrastructure Engineering ’17, received his master’s degree in May. He says being at the same university as his siblings makes him dream that one day, all of them will be able to open an engineering firm. He currently works as a senior project engineer with the construction firm Balfour Beatty.

While all pursued or are pursuing the same master’s degree, each concentrated in different areas. Sammy specialized in construction project management, Renee chose geotechnical engineering, and Nicole studied structural engineering. Michael plans to focus on transportation engineering.

Their family is a tight-knit unit, often discussing work-related engineering challenges while sitting around the dinner table. “It’s awesome to hear how each person’s day went and what issues they faced in the field,” Nicole says.

There is also a little engineering rivalry, adds Michael, who’ll be working at T3 Design Corporation in Fairfax, Virginia, as a highway designer while earning his master’s degree in civil and infrastructure engineering at Mason.

When the family was designing a new deck for their home, “everybody had their own opinion and was trying to outdo each other with their engineering ideas,” he says.

—Nanci Hellmich