McDougal will oversee OSU wave lab, other civil and construction engineering labs

William McDougal will oversee several engineering labs on campus (courtesy photo)

William McDougal has been named director of CCE (Civil and Construction Engineering) Research Laboratories at the Oregon State University Hinsdale complex.

McDougal has conducted research and worked on engineering and construction projects in more than 25 countries over the span of his career, and much of his work focuses on shoreline modeling, coastal flood studies and coastal structures.

As director, McDougal will oversee three main labs on campus that focus on waves, structural testing and geotechnical engineering. His primary focus will be on the Hinsdale Wave Lab, an internationally recognized lab that features the world’s largest tsunami wave basin and the largest wave flume in the United States.

“OSU is becoming a global center of excellence for wave power in addition to being a top spot for tsunami modeling research,” McDougal said.

OSU has the only wave-related facility in the National Science Foundation Earthquake Engineering research program that includes tsunami research, and NSF researchers from around the country have on-going projects at the lab.

In fact there’s so much demand by NSF, university researchers and private industry that facilities at the lab are booked a year in advance. McDougal, who did graduate research at the wave lab in the 1970s and was on staff at OSU through the 1990s, said he doesn’t remember a time when the facility was so booked. But following several recent tsunamis in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and hurricanes in the Gulf, demand is peaking.

“When computer models were first developed, there was a time when using physical models was passé,” McDougal said. “But scientists and engineers have found that computer models have limits. The use of physical models is making a strong comeback.”

McDougal will oversee other facilities as well.

In the structural testing lab, directed by Chris Higgins, researchers can conduct full-scale structural tests on everything from beams to footings to structural connections. One of recent project has been working on a large-scale model of the connections used in the 1-35 bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2007, and McDougal said by using the model they were able to detect structural problems.

“They discover things on full-sized structural members that you can’t on small models or by using computer models,” he said.

The geotechnical field station, which is headed by Scott Ashford, works with large-scale testing of soil-foundation systems. The scientists are studying the lateral capacity of pile foundations for different soil types and placement configurations for the California Department of Transportation.

While McDougal will oversee all three labs, his primary focus will be on making sure that the wave laboratory can accommodate the growing demand as interest in wave energy, tsunamis and coastal flooding research continues to grow.

McDougal received his Ph. D. in civil engineering in 1982 from OSU, and served on the OSU faculty for more than 20 years before joining the University of Florida as director of its Coastal Engineering Laboratory in 2002. Most recently, he’s been active in private industry as a consultant. He also had eight international visiting scholar positions, and was a foreign expert for the World Bank.

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