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, "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 (201610)

Why Do You Need a PE License?




Quite often we get questions from our readers about the importance of the PE license. For engineers, the PE license is the mark of a professional. It’s a standard recognized by all employers and their clients, by governments and by the public as an assurance of dedication, skill and quality.

For consulting engineers and private practitioners, licensure is a virtual necessity. In fact, it is a legal requirement for those who are in responsible charge of work, be they principals or employees. The PE license is also very important for other institutions. For example, government agencies, educational institutions and private industries are increasingly requiring that they hire and contract only with licensed professional engineers. This is a trend that is almost certain to continue in the future.

According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, an engineer needs a license for various reasons including prestige, career development, authority, flexibility, and of course money:

Prestige: PEs are respected by the public and are seen in the same light as licensed professionals in other fields. PEs are also held in high esteem by their peers within the engineering community, who see the PE as part of an elite group.

Career Development: Employers are impressed with engineers who have their PE license. Licensure not only enhances your stature, it shows commitment to the profession and demonstrates heightened leadership and management skills. Licensure is also a necessity for rising to increased levels of authority and responsibility.

Authority: Only PEs can sign and seal engineering drawings; and only PEs can be in responsible charge of a firm in private practice or serve as a fully qualified expert witness. Also, many government agencies and educational institutions are emphasizing licensure among their engineers as well.

Flexibility: Having a PE license opens up your career options. You can become a specialist, or establish your own business. It also protects you during industry downsizing or outsourcing. The PE license allows you to go as far as your initiative and talent will take you.

Money: Studies have shown that most PEs earn higher pay throughout their business careers. Having your PE allows expanded opportunities beyond a company structure – as an independent consultant for example.

The Latest NCEES-FE Reference Handbook (Version 9.4)

Last month we promised our readers to talk about the latest FE Reference Handbook (Version 9.4) that is available from The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES).

As before, the new FE Reference Handbook (version 9.4) is supplied electronically to FE examinees during the exam and displayed on their exam computer monitors as a searchable PDF file. All examinees will use a 24-inch monitor while testing to allow sufficient space to display both the exam question and the reference handbook. It is very important to become familiar with the latest version of the FE Reference Handbook prior to taking the computer-based test (CBT). I also recommend my students to own a hard copy of the handbook. When studying, remembering the page numbers of some important formulas may also help.

To pass the exam, you need to get about 77 questions right or 70% of the whole test. To achieve that, you have to get to the proper formulas, relationships and tables as fast as you can without wasting time. For example, just to give you an idea, if you need the Modulus of Elasticity of Aluminum (Ealum) for a problem on the test, the answer will be on page 84 of the reference manual and you have to go to that page in less than ten seconds. If you need the dimensions and properties of W-Shapes you need to turn to page 159. I’ll never forget when, during one of my pro-bono Saturday classes at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, DC, we needed the properties of a W 12 x 50 shape and a student in the class spent more than five minutes to get to the right page instead of a few seconds.

Finally, the FE is a fast-paced exam and you will have little time to look up information. Therefore, make sure you are familiar with your reference material and you always begin with the subject areas you know best. This will give you more time and build your confidence. Remember, it is always a good idea to consider reverse engineering the problems by substituting the answers and seeing which one works (try your hand at this month’s practice problems!).

Most importantly, stay relaxed and confident. Always keep a good attitude and remind yourself that you are going to do your best. Good luck!

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, PE (Dr. Z.)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Dr. Z’s Corner (201609)

Time Really Flies – Especially When You Are Having Fun




Unbelievably AY-2016–2017 has just started. Time goes by so fast. Some of you may know I am just back from my semester-long sabbatical leave. For the last thirty years in academia, thanks to my students’ resistance, I had never dared considering a leave until this past semester. As a tenured professor, I was told, I was eligible to take paid sabbatical leave at least four times in three decades, but no regrets.

Here is a brief account of my break. During my break, while charging my batteries, I never missed my monthly NCS articles of Dr. Z’s Corner. I also continued preparing dozens of original problems for our readers every month. Not only that, I was also at school almost every Saturday to make sure I run our now well-known pro-bono Saturday classes for the students from various universities and also practicing engineers in the metro area. I was really having fun since we have helped scores of engineering students and engineers for free. And one of them was Diego Buitrago, a structural engineer from Washington, DC. His story was truly inspirational:

Dear Dr. Z,

I just received the great news. Yes, I conquered the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) engineering exam on my first try. As a fresh graduate, I would like to thank you for your continued support and mentorship. I also would like to thank to NCS for the “Dr.Z’s Corner” for providing hundreds of problems for free for the students and engineers who are preparing to take their FE and PE exams. Your pedagogy, your examples and your pro-bono Saturday sessions made a huge difference and believe it or not you have changed my life Dr. Z.

For other students who are interested in passing these exams, I have to tell them my story, how I met you and how I joined your exciting free Saturday classes at UDC? First, let me start from the beginning:

I came to U.S. from Colombia in August 2013 and I had set three important goals for myself. To work hard and be a great Structural Engineer, finish the master’s degree, pass the FE and PE exams and hopefully be my own boss one day.

You may not remember but in spring 2014, I had the opportunity to meet with you, Dr. Z at Howard University. You were a guest speaker at our research seminar that I attended. You gave to us an unforgettable presentation about “How to inspire, motivate and educate engineering students and how to conquer the FE and PE exams?” You also shared with us some stories of your personal life. I was especially impressed with your first two weeks in this country and your experience with homeless people on the streets of Washington, DC. At that point, for sure you were my hero and my role model. For the first time since I came to the U.S. I felt identify with a person that I could see as a very positive influence on me. By that time, I thought I had difficulties but that was nothing compared to your experience. No doubt, this gave me hope and inspiration to be successful in my career as a structural engineer.

At the end of summer 2015, my master’s degree requirements were partially completed and I joined your pro-bono Saturday classes that you have been offering at UDC. During the first three months, I studied and prepared for the FE exam based on the information and class notes from you. I followed your every advice to conquer the FE exam and I literally solved all the exercises available at Dr Z’s Corner given in the NCS’ website. I want all other students to know that ASCE-NCS website is a great source with hundreds of original problems and costs nothing, it is absolutely free.

Immediately after passing the FE exam, I also received a job offer from a world renowned structural engineering company in San Francisco, California.

I consider myself very fortunate that I met you at the right time Dr. Z. You have already changed my life. I cannot thank you enough, I am eternally grateful.


Diego Buitrago, E.I.T
T. Y. Lin International
Bridge Engineer

Finally, did you know that NCEES Reference Handbook (Version 9.4) is just published? Next month we will talk about that exciting news and its implications.

I will close with a reminder: In both FE and PE exams timing is everything. To conquer these exams SPEED is crucial, and speed can only be attained through practice and more practice (try out this month’s problems)! 

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E. (Dr. Z)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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