Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer, author and mentor living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia at UDC, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and is a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including recent national awards from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly articles for “Dr.Z’s Corner “ and offering hundreds of engineering problems, for free, every month for students, engineers and engineering educators worldwide. Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the greater Washington metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch! Starbucks coffee is always a must have for Dr. Z.

Dr. Z's Corner

Dr. Z’s Corner (201605)

Let’s Talk about Engineering Ethics: NCEES Rules of Professional Conduct – Part-II




Did you know that the 31st president of the United States was a Professional Engineer? He enrolled at Stanford University when it opened its doors in 1891 and graduated as a mining engineer. His term (1929–1933) was marked by the stock market crash of 1929 and the beginning of the Great Depression.

This great engineer once said: The great liability of the engineer, compared to men of other professions, is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. He cannot, like the doctors, bury his mistakes in the grave. He cannot, like the lawyers, argue them into thin air. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like the politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents. The “engineer” simply cannot deny he did it; if his works do not work, he is damned! Herbert Hoover

In last month’s article, we started discussing the Model Rules, the important guidelines for professional engineers. As you may remember, these rules were comprised of the following three major sections: (A) Licensee’s Obligation to the Public, (B) Licensee’s Obligation to Employers and Clients, and (C) Licensee’s Obligation to Other Licensees. And we covered the first model rule. Today we will talk about the second and third.

II. Licensee’s Obligation to Employer and Clients

1. Licensees shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific technical fields of engineering or surveying involved.

2. Licensees shall not affix their signatures or seals to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack competence, nor to any such plan or document not prepared under their responsible charge.

3. Licensees may accept assignments and assume responsibility for coordination of an entire project, provided that each technical segment is signed and sealed by the licensee responsible for preparation of that technical segment.

4. Licensees shall not reveal facts, data, or information obtained in a professional capacity without the prior consent of the client, employer, or public body on which they serve except as authorized or required by law or rules.

5. Licensees shall not solicit or accept gratuities, directly or indirectly, from contractors, their agents, or other parties in connection with work for employers or clients.

6. Licensees shall disclose to their employers or clients all known or potential conflicts of interest or other circumstances that could influence or appear to influence their judgment or the quality of their professional service or engagement.

7. Licensees shall not accept compensation, financial or otherwise, from more than one party for services pertaining to the same project, unless the circumstances are fully disclosed and agreed to in writing by all interested parties.

8. Licensees shall not solicit or accept a professional contract from a governmental body on which a principal or officer of their organization serves as a member. Conversely, licensees serving as members, advisors, or employees of a government body or department, who are the principals or employees of a private concern, shall not participate in decisions with respect to professional services offered or provided by said concern to the governmental body that they serve.

9. Licensees shall not use confidential information received in the course of their assignments as a means of making personal profit without the consent of the party from whom the information was obtained.

III. Licensee’s Obligation to Other Licensees

1. Licensees shall not falsify or permit misrepresentation of their or their associates’, academic or professional qualifications. They shall not misrepresent or exaggerate neither their degree of responsibility in prior assignments nor the complexity of said assignments. Presentations incidental to the solicitation of employment or business shall not misrepresent pertinent facts concerning employers, employees, associates, joint ventures, or past accomplishments.

2. Licensees shall not offer, give, solicit, or receive, either directly or indirectly, any commission, or gift, or other valuable consideration in order to secure work, and shall not make any political contribution with the intent to influence the award of a contract by public authority.

3. Licensees shall not injure or attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice, or employment of other licensees, nor indiscriminately criticize other licensees’ work.

4. Licensees shall make a reasonable effort to inform another licensee whose work is believed to contain a material discrepancy, error, or omission that may impact the health, safety, or welfare of the public, unless such reporting is legally prohibited.

As always we conclude our remarks with another important reminder. Keep in mind that many problems in the FE and PE exams can be solved by either analyzing the answers or reverse engineering (visit this month’s problem set). Read the options very carefully.


Good Luck,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E.

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Dr. Z’s Corner (201604)

Let's Talk about Engineering Ethics: NCEES Rules of Professional Conduct - Part I




Starting with this issue, we will talk about “Engineering Ethics.” Most of you know that ethics is a recent introduction to the FE exams and some may ask why NCEES has decided to include ethics in the exams. The answer is simple: there have been a number of so called “engineering disasters” like Tacoma Narrows Bridge failure (1940), Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway collapse (1981), Chernobyl disaster (1986) and Space Shuttle Columbia disaster (2003) to name a few and these unfortunate events have increased the public awareness about the importance of engineering in the society.

The ethical principles governing the engineering profession are embodied in codes of ethics and have been adopted by state boards of registration and professional engineering societies such as ASCE, ASME, IEEE, and NSPE. The Rules of Professional Conduct is also included in NCEES Reference Handbook. According to NCEES, the expertise possessed by engineers is vitally important to societal welfare. In order to serve society effectively, engineers must maintain a high level of technical competence. However, a high level of technical expertise without adherence to ethical guidelines is as much a threat to public welfare as is professional incompetence.

As engineers, we are expected to exhibit the highest standards of honesty and integrity. Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all people. Accordingly, the services provided by engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be dedicated to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare. Engineers must perform under a standard of professional behavior that requires adherence to the highest principles of ethical conduct.

An example of one such code is the NCEES Rules of Professional Conduct, Section 240 of the Model Rules. In practice, an engineer is responsible for knowing and abiding by these Model Rules as part of her/his responsibility to the public. The Model Rules consist of the following three major sections:

I. Licensee’s Obligation to the Public,

II. Licensee’s Obligation to Employers and Clients, and

III. Licensee’s Obligation to Other Licensees.

According to the NCEES, the three principles listed above are important guidelines for professional engineers. In many situations, the application of these codes of ethics is straightforward. However, there may be situations in which applying the code may raise issues that are more difficult. Due to the space limitations, today we will discuss the first item only and we will continue in next two issues:

I. Licensee’s Obligation to the Public

1. Licensees shall be cognizant that their first and foremost responsibility is to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public when performing services for clients and employers.

2. Licensees shall sign and seal only those plans, surveys, and other documents that conform to accepted engineering and surveying standards and that safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

3. Licensees shall notify their employer or client and such other authority as may be appropriate when their professional judgment is overruled under circumstances in which the health, safety, or welfare of the public is endangered.

4. Licensees shall, to the best of their knowledge, include all relevant and pertinent information in an objective and truthful manner within all professional documents, statements, and testimony.

5. Licensees shall express a professional opinion publicly only when it is founded upon an adequate knowledge of the facts and a competent evaluation of the subject matter.

6. Licensees shall issue no statements, criticisms, or arguments on engineering and surveying matters that are inspired or paid for by interested parties, unless they explicitly identify the interested parties on whose behalf they are speaking and reveal any interest they have in the matters.

7. Licensees shall not partner, practice, or offer to practice with any person or firm that they know is engaged in fraudulent or dishonest business or professional practices.

8. Licensees who have knowledge or reason to believe that any person or firm has violated any rules or laws applying to the practice of engineering or surveying shall report it to the board, may report it to appropriate legal authorities, and shall cooperate with the board and those authorities as may be requested.

9. Licensees shall not knowingly provide false or incomplete information regarding an applicant in obtaining licensure.

10. Licensees shall comply with the licensing laws and rules governing their professional practice in each of the jurisdictions in which they practice.

As always, we conclude our remarks with important reminder: in both the FE and PE exams, timing and knowledge of the topics listed in the NCEES – Reference Handbook is everything. To conquer these exams, speed is crucial, speed can only be attained through practice, and more practice (visit this month’s problem set). Please remember to send us your feedback about this column and our pro-bono Saturday classes.

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, PE

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