While he certainly could be excused to take some well-deserved R&R at this point in his career, Rudolph Bonaparte remains more interested in R&D.
A passion for research and development has driven Bonaparte throughout his career, earning him a reputation as a leader in the design and performance evaluation of waste-containment systems for all types of solid-waste landfills, as well as the ASCE 2016 Outstanding Projects And Leaders leadership award for design.
Bonaparte, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, NAE, is the president, CEO, and senior principal for Geosyntec Consultants in Atlanta.
He followed his stepfather, Leonard Krazynski, into civil engineering and benefited from three excellent academic mentors – professors Roy Olson at the University of Texas at Austin, and Jim Mitchell and Mike Duncan (both former OPAL winners for education) at the University of California, Berkeley.
Along the way Bonaparte has used research as a means to innovate and find new design methods, often collaborating with another of his mentors, Geosyntec founder, Jean Pierre Giroud.
“I always had a real enthusiasm for research and development, even as a practitioner,” Bonaparte said. “It’s led me to being active in collaborating with academia throughout my career, which then led to involvement in research activities and the development of design methods for the things I was interested in pursuing.”
See a video about the winner, as presented at the gala:
Bonaparte has a seemingly unquenchable thirst to learn more and constantly improve. “I took every opportunity I could that once something got built to try to obtain performance data on it and compare the performance of the structure or facility to what one might predict based on the design,” he said.
His work has paid off with an impressive list of project successes, studies, and published papers over the years – including an influential study for the Environmental Protection Agency that outlined for the first time the field performances of modern landfills with respect to their ability to protect the environment, a massive cleanup project of the Department of Energy Fernald uranium processing plant near Cincinnati, as well as ongoing cleanup projects involving DOE former gaseous diffusion plants in Portsmouth, OH, and Paducah, KY.
He is most proud of his 20 years leading Geosyntec as president and CEO, employing more than 1,000 professionals in a collaborative work atmosphere that boasts more than 400 company shareholders among the staff.
“When so many engineering firms are getting big, I feel like we have really created a nice environment for our staff to grow professionally and personally and have careers they can be proud of,” Bonaparte said. “They need to feel like they have equal opportunities and they’re a partner. We’re all in this together.”
Bonaparte and his colleagues are working now to develop cleanup strategies and detailed designs for several heavily polluted waterways in the New York City metro area.
“I think it gets back to the way I was raised: you try to give back in life and try to help people,” Bonaparte said. “That’s my personal philosophy.”
The OPAL Awards honor outstanding leaders whose lifetime accomplishments contributed to civil engineering in one of five categories – construction, design, education, government, or management. The 2016 honorees were recognized at the OPAL Awards Gala, March 17, 2016, in Arlington, VA.