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Student Spotlight

Rachel Adams, EIT
M.S. Student, Civil Engineering

Why did you choose to pursue studies at Oregon State University?

I started my college education at Chemeketa Community College in my hometown of Salem, Ore. I felt unsure of what to study until my math professor acknowledged that I had strong math skills and suggested that I speak with the engineering professor at the college. After our initial meeting, I thought the discipline sounded interesting with many types of engineering to choose from. I began taking prerequisites for civil engineering to try out the courses. I had heard excellent things about engineering programs at Oregon State University, some of which from my grandfather who studied mechanical engineering, and I was excited to transfer. OSU worked with me to import my credits and allowed me to seamlessly begin pro-school for civil engineering, which I had become passionate about since being introduced to the subject.

How did you become interested in geotechnical engineering?

I had never heard of geotechnical engineering before coming to OSU. I really enjoyed the two introductory courses to the subject offered in the civil engineering program. Dr. Ben Mason, the professor for Geotechnical Engineering II, informed me of an opportunity to work during the summer in the geotechnical research lab with a Ph.D. student. This experience made me much more familiar with geotechnical testing and the implications of the results. I learned so much that summer about the process of research. I decided soon after to pursue graduate school for a master’s degree in civil engineering with a geotechnical focus.

Describe your current research.

I am currently working to perform many laboratory tests on samples of sand from Newport, Ore. to fully characterize the sediment properties. After I obtain the results from my laboratory program, I plan to implement them into a tsunami-induced sediment instability model. Geotechnical engineers and coastal engineers must work together to model this problem. Although I am investigating the problem from a more geotechnical engineering perspective, I am excited to bridge the gap between these two disciplines in my study.

Describe your recent activities while traveling in Nepal. 

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two research trips to Nepal this past year. The first trip was timed for the one year anniversary of the Gorkha Earthquake. Experts from around the world traveled to Nepal to attend a workshop focused on work that had been done since the earthquake. We were able to meet many people in the earthquake engineering community during this trip. In addition to people attending the workshop, we met with professors at Tribhuvan University and professionals at the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET). Through these connections we were able to develop a list of desires from our Nepalese colleagues and use this information to develop an earthquake engineering workshop with a team of professors from the U.S. Our team presented this workshop during our most recent trip in September. The Nepalese engineers are very interested in better design practices and current methods that the U.S. utilizes for earthquake engineering. There is a large desire to improve education for engineers and consequently make improvements to infrastructure design and construction.

Describe any valuable experiences and lessons learned while working in Nepal.

My first time leaving the country was going to Nepal in April 2016. This opportunity was amazing to be able to be submerged in a culture so different from the U.S., but also discover that the people there had many of the same goals as us. It was so valuable to have interactions with the engineers in Nepal, getting to see their unique challenges for site investigations and construction in the very dense Kathmandu Valley. It was an important point of emphasis during our trip that we were there to not only teach what we knew and help to improve conditions in Nepal, but to really learn from them as well. They have proved to be an extremely resilient community, which is a great example for the Pacific Northwest with the impending Cascadia Subduction Zone event. We face many of the same earthquake hazards as the Nepalese. For instance, we have many unreinforced masonry buildings in Portland that will not perform well in a seismic event. Also, the region’s tectonic plate boundary is similar, so we expect similar earthquake motions.

What are your plans following graduation?

I hope to have a geotechnical engineering job lined up in the Portland area by the time I graduate in June. I would really like to start at a medium sized firm that works with a variety of projects. I like the idea of being exposed to many different problems within geotechnical engineering and determine which areas I like best and want to focus on.

What do you enjoy about life and studies Oregon State University? 

I’ve really enjoyed my time at OSU. Ever since I arrived as an undergraduate, I have loved the community, faculty, and location. I have had so many diverse opportunities here and I am so thankful for the people that have been involved in leading me to the best college experience.