Ashley Thrall will receive her PhD from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University in May 2011, where she has also earned an MA in 2009 and an MSE 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. For this research, she has developed a structural optimization code that designs the geometry of the systems and the section profiles using a multi-objective function approach to minimize the use of material and the operating power subject to the constraints of current bridge design code. This research has been supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Based on her winning essay, “Deployable Structures: Elegant Kinematics for Social Responsibility,” for which she was awarded the 2011 SOM Structural Engineering Fellowship, Ashley will continue to expand 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. She will begin her itinerary in Haiti with the site visit of a recent disaster and then will proceed to study deployable structures in the United States and throughout Europe.
Prior to studying structural engineering, Ashley grew up in Canton, Connecticut and graduated from Canton High School in 2000. She then earned a BA in Physics from Vassar College. While studying physics, she pursued research opportunities 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 through seeking a field which blended her passion for design with her technical interests. In September, Ashley will join the faculty at the University of Notre Dame as the Cardinal John O'Hara Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences.