Class of 2024

Media Sehatzadeh

Chief Dam Safety Engineer, FirstLight: Age 39

Media SehatzadehMedia Sehatzadeh has worked on four continents and several different countries, from Norway to Malawi. She’s thrived in all those settings, she said, because she speaks a common language she encounters everywhere: engineering.

“The engineers are the same, and they speak the same language,” she told BusinessWest. “The language of the countries may be different, but the mathematical language and the way that you approach a problem and the way you design something and make improvements … it’s heartwarming for me to see how similar it is and how much we have in common.”

Her latest work with this common language is taking place in the Northeast, as chief dam safety engineer for FirstLight, a clean-energy power producer, developer, and energy-storage company serving North America. Sehatzadeh is responsible for overseeing critical infrastructure that serves communities across Western Mass., ensuring their safety and functionality.

Her responsibilities extend to managing the overall safety program for all dams at the company’s hydroelectric facilities across New England, including the Northfield Mountain Pumped Hydro Storage Station, the largest pumped-storage asset in New England, capable of storing 8,700 megawatt-hours of electricity, sufficient to power more than 1 million homes.

Sehatzadeh said she always wanted to be a civil engineer, and after earning a bachelor’s degree in that realm in Iran, she completed a master’s program in environmental geology, hydrology, and geohazards at the University of Oslo in Norway.

“Hydrology is something within the overlap of civil engineering and geosciences,” she explained, adding that dam safety became her specific area of focus.

She started her career in Norway, but would later work on projects in different corners of the globe, including the detailed design and construction of the Kamuzu Barrage on the Shire River in Malawi in East Africa. She came to the U.S. in 2018 and eventually became a U.S. citizen.

Since arriving, she’s been part of several projects locally, including the ‘dewatering’ of the Northfield Mountain reservoir and subsequent inspection and monitoring to ensure the safety of the mountain’s dam and dikes — critical structures that “generally don’t see the light of day,” as she put it.

While proud of her work, Sehatzadeh is equally gratified by her mentorship role through Women in Hydropower and her work to encourage women to enter STEM fields.

And when not working, she enjoys art, hiking, snorkeling, and pretty much anything else that will get her outdoors.

—George O’Brien