Ben Upsall

Alum, Master's
Geotechnical Engineering

Where are you now working? Please describe your job.

I currently work as a geotechnical engineering consultant with GeoEngineers, Inc. I lead geotechnical project teams on multidisciplinary design-build transportation projects ranging from bridges and tunnels to noise walls and highways.

How did your UW CEE degree prepare you for your career?

The UW CEE program prepared me very well for a consulting career. They taught me the fundamentals and theory as well as how to apply that knowledge to real world situations. From that solid base, I have had the confidence to build my career and apply my knowledge in practice.

Why did you choose UW CEE over other schools?

The faculty and program were well known and the research being completed at the time when I was evaluating schools was very interesting to me.

What was the master’s program like?

Simply put, the master’s program in geotechnical engineering at UW was fantastic. The combination of classroom-based studies, hands-on laboratory work and real world examples to tie it all back in was a wonderful approach to teaching and learning. The professors are helpful, friendly, available and technically excellent.

What did you enjoy most about the program?

The atmosphere of learning and friendship that permeates the program. There is a close camaraderie between the students and there is a really positive, friendly and lasting relationship that develops with the professors.

What aspect of the field are you particularly interested in?

During my studies at UW, I really wanted to focus on designing and building various types of retaining walls and landslide mitigation systems. However, through the past 12 years of practice in geotechnical engineering and consulting I’d say I have found my passion and niche in the design-build transportation arena.

If you were involved in research while completing the program, what did you work on?

While at the UW, I performed a master’s thesis research project on a groutless soilnail system called Spiralnails. It was a unique opportunity to study a problem from a theoretical standpoint, compare that theory to some computer modeling simulations and attempt to validate all of the findings with some scale model testing in the laboratory.

How did you first become interested in engineering?

I suppose it all started at an early age with science fair experiments and continued with building Rube Goldberg contraptions in middle school. I found that those opportunities engaged my interests far beyond simply completing a school assignment.

Any advice for prospective students who are considering UW CEE?

Just about every year since I have graduated I have had the opportunity to come back to the department and sit on a panel of department alumni and discuss the CEE geotechnical program with prospective graduate students. I always tell them the UW program is one of the best in the nation. The unique set of skills and abilities that the professors provide will prepare them for a geotechnical engineering job (consulting or academia) not only in the Pacific Northwest, but just about anywhere in the world. And then for the out-of-towners, I let them know that it doesn’t rain quite as much as they may have been led to believe…and when it does, well…that’s why we have Gore-tex.