Alumni Spotlight: Jarret L. Kasan (CEE PhD ‘12)
Jarret L. Kasan Connected the Puzzle Pieces to Construct an Impactful Career in Civil Engineering
Growing up in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Jarret Kasan would drive across one of the city’s many bridges to Oakland to skateboard through the University of Pittsburgh’s campus with his friends.
He did not yet know that not only would he earn three engineering degrees from Pitt, but that he’d also eventually be directly involved in preserving and repairing those bridges.
Kasan began attending Pitt in 2003, knowing that he was interested in engineering but not sure of his eventual track. A lifelong fly fisherman, Kasan initially thought he might be interested in environmental engineering so that he could help clean up the local creeks and waterways through acid mine drainage remediation. After taking Dr. John Oyler’s course on mechanics, though, Kasan discovered a love of the subject—and the first piece of the puzzle of his career. His co-op at an environmental engineering company confirmed the idea that the field was not the right fit.
“I was kicking around other ideas, and Dr. Oyler's mechanics course was sticking in my mind,” said Kasan. “I thought, ‘This makes too much sense for me.’ I started to pursue that direction. I ended up taking a left turn, got a co-op with American Bridge Company, and never looked back.”
Kent Harries, professor of civil and environmental engineering and Kasan’s future advisor, gave an introductory presentation in one of the undergraduate seminars—another puzzle piece that influenced Kasan’s view of the field and eventual interest in structural engineering.
“Knowing what I liked with American Bridge Company, and some of the work that was possible through Dr. Harries’ lab, I knew I wanted to get involved,” he said. “A lot of times when you talk to structural engineers, you're either a concrete or a steel person, and I didn't want to go that route. I wanted to be able to understand how these materials behave and the rest would work out.”
Soon, Kasan was a graduate student working in Harries’ lab. There, he had the chance to do work that directly impacted the local community by helping PennDOT develop their approach to prestressed concrete bridge girder repair, directly contributing guidelines still used today.
“I was hoping to do something that had an impact. I wasn't expecting to reinvent the wheel with my graduate research, but I wanted something that would be useful, and something that would be reasonable in practice,” said Kasan. “I was excited that it all came to fruition.”
Since leaving Pitt with a masters and PhD, both earned while working in Harries’ lab, Kasan has been involved in exciting projects from coast to coast. Today, he works at HDR Inc., completing bridge designs and - looking at the big picture - ensuring constructability of designs.
“As you put together a bridge project, you have to consider everything, not just the final structure,” he said. “You have to dig into the details to ensure everything fits together and the bigger picture makes sense.”
Kasan’s big-picture-building career today can be attributed to his time at Pitt, where faculty, staff and other students took the time to help him think through big ideas.
“When I look back at Pitt, the thing that sticks out is the incredible people who work there and the amount of effort they are willing to help, provide insight and provide guidance,” added Kasan. “I think of the Co-Op Program, I think of Dr. Harries, Dr. Brigham and Dr. Oyler, Charles Hager, and I think of the many other professors who would be willing to take the time to help you flesh out your ideas. I was fortunate to be able to find individuals who were incredibly talented, ready to help, and interested in my success.”