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Student Profiles

William Pollock

PhD Student

Geotechnical Engineering

How did you first become interested in engineering?

My father is a professor of civil engineering, first at Washington State University and now at George Fox University. I loved when he gave me tours of the structure’s lab, explained his students’ research, and involved me in testing his students’ balsa wood bridges for his Introduction to Structural Design class. Childhood awe turned into adolescent aspiration as I began to travel internationally and see simple, effective civil engineering solutions for developing-world problems. Studying and working in Northern India and Northeastern Uganda forged that dream into a passion for geohazard prediction and mitigation.

Why did you choose UW Civil & Environmental Engineering?

The opportunity to pursue graduate research in my specific area of interest under one of the leading experts in the geohazards field was irresistible. Having two significant mountain ranges and a host of outdoor recreational opportunities at my fingertips was a big bonus!

What do you enjoy most about the program?

I love the flexibility and the “discoverer’s” spirit of the program. Good ideas are oozing out of the walls in the CEE department. The ability to glean ideas from curiosity-driven colleagues and the freedom to chase down answers feeds the adventurer in me!

What aspect of the field are you particularly interested in?

I find landslide hazard and risk mapping a fascinating subject. Landslides are wildly variable in form and often seemingly unpredictable in occurrence; however, or often consequently, they can cause devastating and tragic impact to human life and infrastructure.

If you’ve been involved in research, what have you worked on?

During my first year at the UW, I examined the runout behavior of flowslide-type landslides (i.e. the Oso/SR 530 landslide) in order to create accurate predictive tools for landslide hazard zonation. Currently, my supervisor and I are developing a GIS-based, regional-scale landslide risk mapping platform.

What other activities on campus are you involved in?

I am a member of the Geo-Institute Graduate Student Society (GIGSS), a student-run club which focuses on enhancing students’ educational experience through close collaboration with the geotechnical engineering practitioner community in the Puget Sound region.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

After graduation I hope to tackle geohazard-related engineering problems in developing regions of Central Asia. Accelerating development, frequent seismicity, and high-intensity weather cycles make this an exciting area for high-impact landslide risk mapping.

Any advice for prospective students who are considering UW CEE?

Look for a sub-field you love and people with whom you would enjoy working. In doing so, you might sacrifice being a part of the “flashiest,” biggest-budget projects, but your educational experience will be richer, your research of higher caliber, and your work more satisfying. Also, get involved in activities and communities off-campus. Holding work and play in a healthy balance will make you more productive and a whole lot happier!