College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ABE Alum Spotlight: Brady Nahkala – building a career preserving our water resources, starting at ISU

Brady Nahkala poses for headshot wearing a blue shirt.
Brady Nahkala poses for headshot wearing a blue shirt.

Brady Nahkala is a two-time alum of Iowa State University and a Water Resources Project Engineer at Bolton & Menk, Inc. Growing up in Minnesota, Nahkala had a love for lakes, rivers, and spending time in nature. Combining his love for the outdoors and affinity for math, he attended Iowa State to study Biological Systems Engineering. “I felt this program addressed the natural side of things I was searching for,” Nahkala said.  

Time at Iowa State  

During his time on campus, Nahkala was involved in many activities, like the Symphony Orchestra and the Honors Program, but mainly Engineers Without Borders. This organization allowed him to build leadership skills while helping a community in Ghana with water supply systems and clean drinking water.  

After completing his undergraduate degree in 2019, Nahkala continued with his master’s in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE) department. He researched prairie potholes, agricultural drainage, and assessing flood risk in agricultural settings. 

“In addition to the direct knowledge I gained through research, I got to lead myself towards my own goals. It was up to me to build different skills and strengths within my research topic and coursework. I learned a great deal about learning outside the structured environment that undergraduate programs provide,” Nahkala said.  

Something important to Nahkala throughout his undergraduate and graduate programs was to be authentic with his career interests. “People recognize authenticity and genuine interest. They are more willing to hire and train based on that enthusiasm. It took working in a role I was unhappy with to understand where my passions are. It is okay to follow a winding path and develop specific preferences when pursuing a career.” said Nahkala.  

Career in water resources engineering  

Today, Nahkala works with Bolton & Menk as a Water Resources Project Engineer. Day to day, he does civil engineering design work and hydraulic modeling, consulting for clients on flood control systems, drainage improvements, stream and wetland restoration projects, and more. He is passionate about this job as it allows him to help with practical issues that holistically improve communities.  

“Learning doesn’t stop on graduation day. During the first six months on the job, I struggled with transitioning from being an ‘expert’ in my master’s program research topic to being new in my position,” Nahkala said. “However, the reward of that continual learning is being able to serve those populations most at risk and most in need of protection from major natural disasters, as well as preserving and protecting natural resources for all to experience and enjoy.”  

Now being with Bolton & Menk for three years, he enjoys that fast-paced and practical consulting environment. From ISU to the professional world Nahkala is preserving and protecting the natural world.