The Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI) has named Patrick Ragan the winner of its 2017 Outstanding Young Engineer Award.
Ragan, an associate engineer in the Chicago office of WSP USA, said the honor caught him by surprise.
“I certainly didn’t expect it,” Ragan said. “There are so many talented and hard-working engineers in our office alone, not to mention the rest of Chicago and Illinois, that it’s a privilege to just be a part of the profession. So being picked for the award was a fantastic honor.”
The Outstanding Young Engineer Award honors one engineer under the age of 35 who for outstanding achievements in structural engineering. Carrie Warner, a vice president in the Chicago office and a member of SEAOI, nominated him for the award.
“It is rare that an engineer is actually a driver for innovation of large and complex projects at an early phase in their career, but Patrick is one rare engineer,” Warner said. “His profound conceptual understanding of structural behavior is complemented by a creative mind, a practical approach and a personal drive to carry new ideas into reality.”
Since joining WSP in 2007, Ragan has been involved in a number of high-profile building projects around the globe.
“For most of my career I’ve worked primarily on large international projects, and I’ve had the opportunity to study some interesting analysis problems, such as nonlinear form-finding analysis of shell-shaped roof structures, nonlinear response history analysis under seismic events, and material optimization for high-rise structural systems,” Ragan said.
Some structural engineering projects to which Ragan has contributed include:
As the lead engineer for the lateral systems for Hanking Center Tower and Samsung China Headquarters, Ragan has performed nonlinear response history analysis to assess performance under rare-level seismic loading, enabling those projects to receive expert panel approval.
“One of the things I enjoy about working for WSP is the opportunity to collaborate with global architecture firms who are doing great work, both here in the U.S. and around the world,” he said.
Recently, Ragan has been working on more projects in the Chicago area. “It has been great for gaining experience in the construction phase of projects and getting to see completed buildings in my own backyard,” he said.
Ragan grew up in the small Kansas town of Manhattan, affectionately called “the Little Apple” by its residents. Ragan graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering, and a master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
He said one of the advantages of working at a firm like WSP is the influence of experience. “I am surrounded by smart people with great ideas, and those experiences have shaped my career,” he said.
Ragan loves the opportunity to solve new problems. “Every building is different, so I get this opportunity every day,” he said. “Architects go through design iterations very quickly, especially early in a project. They need their engineering consultants to move just as quickly to provide timely feedback about their designs.”
He said the Chicago office has put a lot of effort into developing custom tools to move geometry and other information quickly between different software platforms during the concept design phase when designs are changing rapidly.
Ragan’s experience has led him to membership on the American Society of Civil Engineering’s tall buildings committee and the subcommittee on the performance-based design of tall buildings under wind loads. “We’re currently writing a document to report on best practices for the structural design of tall buildings under wind load, including guidance on analytical modelling and selection of serviceability performance objectives,” he said.
Outside the office, Ragan is a supporter of the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. “Their mission is to ‘advance laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty,’ which is important work if we want our country to be a place where success is a reachable goal for everyone,” he said.
“Already, clients and design collaborators appreciate the high level of analytical and design expertise Patrick brings to each project, as he enables their architectural design innovation through innovative engineering,” Warner said. “Patrick undoubtedly has a spectacular future career ahead that will make an innovative, lasting impact on the built world and profession."
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