Nathan Van Winkle


Project Geo-Structural Engineer


  • 2018


  • Lake Oswego, OR

As a geotechnical engineer, a big part of Nathan’s job is to harness data and put it to use. Geotechnical engineering means understanding underground features and processes that are often unseen, and the samples Nathan collects help us fill in the gaps in our knowledge and give us the foundation for efficient and safe designs. At times this process can be as much an art as a science thanks to the endless variability in soil conditions.

“I always found structural engineering to be very ‘cut and paste’—you can build the same building in multiple places,” Nathan says. “But the ground is always different, and can be best served with a unique solution.”

Before joining GeoEngineers, Nathan picked up valuable experience working elsewhere in the industry, especially in the area of earth retention design. He focused on retention, micropiles and other structural geotechnical elements while working for a specialty contractor and during his graduate studies. He also had the opportunity to work on diverse projects during every stage—from fast-bid designs to large, multi-stakeholder municipal projects. Nathan says his time with a specialty contracting firm also gives him a unique perspective on our projects.

“I know all the ‘contractor tricks’ and the thought process they are bringing to each situation,” Nathan says. “On one hand this allows me to keep them accountable when observing, but it also gives me a lot of empathy to understand and get ahead of situations.”

Nathan also brings an environmental viewpoint to his work. He describes himself as “a bit of an environmentalist,” who takes a pragmatic approach to protecting our country’s natural resources through responsible design.

“I strive for the optimal design, at least in part because the optimized design has the smallest carbon footprint, and can minimize the damage to the natural world,” Nathan says.

This interest in the natural world doesn’t stop at the end of Nathan’s workday. At home, you might find Nathan tending his garden, brewing his own beer, making herbal teas or tossing his organic waste into a worm farm for composting. He enjoys puttering around the house on utilitarian woodworking projects and takes every chance to get outside for hiking or backpacking. He’ll also proudly show off his tattoos, including an artful representation of soil mechanics on his forearm!

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