CHICAGO – The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Foundation recently announced that the $10,000 SOM 2011 Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship has been awarded to Ashley Thrall, who in May received her PhD from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University, where she has also received a Masters in Arts in 2009 and a Master of Science in Engineering in 2008. Working with Professors Sigrid Adriaenssens, Maria Garlock, and David Billington, her PhD research has focused on improving the sustainability of movable bridges by generating new forms that integrate the structural and mechanical systems.

Based on her essay submitted for fellowship consideration, “Deployable Structures: Elegant Kinematics for Social Responsibility,” Ashley will utilize her fellowship to continue her interest in kinematic structures by studying the application of deployable structures for disaster relief. Her itinerary will include 1) visiting the site of a recent disaster; 2) meeting designers at research centers and design firms, and 3) evaluating deployable structures through site visits. Ashley will begin her itinerary in Haiti, at the site of the recent earthquake, and then will proceed to study deployable structures in the United States and throughout Europe.

Having grown up in Canton, Connecticut and graduating from Canton High School in 2000, Ashley then earned her Bachelor of Arts in Physics from Vassar College. While studying physics, she utilized her summers to gain research experience at Vassar College, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of California – San Diego, CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) and the University of Michigan. She was eventually drawn to structural engineering while seeking a field which blended her passion for design with her technical interests.

The SOM Structural Engineering Travel Fellowship is awarded annually through a national competition. In January 2011, the SOM Foundation received portfolio submissions from students at US schools having an accredited program in civil and structural engineering. The submissions were judged on the quality of the design portfolios, research proposals and travel itineraries.

Meeting in Chicago this year, the jury was comprised of some of the city’s most distinguished professionals: John Carrato, SE, PE, President and CEO, Alfred Benesch & Company; Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Artist; Lawrence Novak, SE, PE, Portland Cement Association, Director of Building Structures; and Mark Schendel, AIA, Principal, Studio Gang Architects. The jury was chaired by SOM Structural Engineering Partner, Bill Baker.

Now in its 30th year, the Foundation’s fellowships continue to offer recent graduates the rare opportunity to travel in conjunction with carrying out in-depth research, collaborating with other professionals, and pursuing independent study outside the realm of established patterns. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $1,000,000 to architecture, design, and engineering students who have gone on to distinguish themselves in professional and academic careers.