Based on family history, you couldn’t have engineered a more likely career for Laurel Ridge Professor Elizabeth “Liz” Palffy.
“Both of my parents and my grandfather were engineers, and one of my brothers is an engineer,” she said.
Professor Palffy has been an engineering professor at Laurel Ridge since early 2019. She brought more than a decade of engineering experience with her – seven years in the field, plus the five-year program that saw her earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Virginia Tech.
Following her graduation, she went to work for Bechtel Corp., an international engineering, construction and project management firm, for seven years. She was a field engineer on the Metro Silver Line project before moving to Texas where Bechtel was working to build an ethylene cracker for ExxonMobil.
Professor Palffy, a licensed professional engineer, explained that the plant takes natural gas from the refinery with chemical feedstock and processes it into plastic pellets to be used by manufacturers in the making of plastic parts, bags, and more. On this project, her roles included civil field engineer, piping superintendent, and project controls.
When hip surgery made being on project sites more difficult, Professor Palffy made the move into teaching, starting with construction management courses at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
Her husband’s work with Bechtel brought them back to Virginia in late 2018, and she was hired by Laurel Ridge that winter.
“I knew I always wanted to teach,” she said. “I really liked working in the field with the young craft workers who wanted to learn.”
Professor Palffy explained that craft workers are those who are actually building structures, moving pipe, operating machinery and doing other hands-on work on sites.
“I would try to mentor them and teach them about why they were doing what they were doing,” she said. “I wanted them to understand why things were being done a certain way. Once I made the switch to teaching, I’ve really enjoyed working with students as they figure out where they fit in the engineering world.
“The students coming into our program, are some of the brightest I’ve seen.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.