By Andrew Clark
Studying wind energy was simply addictive for Wystan Carswell ’10. She was captivated by the topic while pursuing a master’s degree in structural engineering at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. It’s now the focus of her doctoral work at UMass Amherst and her research post at Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, Oslo.
“The ultimate goal of my research is to reduce the cost of generating offshore wind energy, making it more economically appealing,” says Carswell, who will complete her five-month residency in June. “Renewable energy is only going to gain importance in the global paradigm. I am passionate about contributing to the body of research that supports a better environment.”
Carswell views her civil engineering degree as one of her biggest career assets.
“I had a rigorous engineering education, and I felt very well prepared for life beyond Lafayette,” she says.
She adds that her experiences in the Delta Delta Delta sorority helped develop skills in relating to others that she’s found critical in her career.
Last summer, Carswell’s two Ph.D. advisers, who have strong ties to the Norwegian program, proposed the residency to her. They believed it would benefit her career goal of working in wind energy because Europe has been a beacon for research in the field.
“For the most part, Europe does not have the same amount of natural resources [coal and natural gas] that the U.S. has,” Carswell says. “The EU aims to have 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Consequently, offshore wind energy must play a significant role.”
Carswell’s research primarily involves computational models of offshore wind turbines. Because turbines are so large and expensive, physical testing is rare. Engineers rely mainly on element codes to predict behavior. Specifically, Carswell focuses on analyzing the effects of soil damping on offshore wind turbines and has been part of a project that uses statistics to design offshore pile foundations.
Living in Norway, Carswell has gained a broadened global perspective. She says she has observed fundamental differences when comparing the economic, political, and environmental systems of the U.S. and Norway.
Carswell stays in touch with Andrew Baldridge ’10, Jon Martin ’11, Alec Bernstein ’11, and Joseph Goodwill ’04, who are in her department at UMass Amherst. For the spring holiday, she joined European-based friends Hanna Pingry ’10 and Jessica Counihan ’10 in Tallinn, Estonia.