Orson P. Smith, PE, Ph.D.

Professor, Civil Engineering Department
Office: ENGR 205
Phone: (907)786-1910


  • Professional Engineer (civil), Alaska (since 1983)
  • Member, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

o Technical Council on Cold Regions Engineering (TCCRE)

o Coastal, Ocean, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI)

  • Diplomate, Port Engineering*
  • Diplomate, Coastal Engineering*
    *Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port and Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE)


  • Ph.D., Physical Oceanography, North Carolina State University, 1989
  • M.S., Civil Engineering, Mississippi State University, 1986
  • Graduate Diploma, Hydraulic Engineering, Delft, the Netherlands, 1979
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Kentucky, 1971

Career History

August 1998 to present: Professor, Civil Engineering Department (Chair 1/06-5/10), School of Engineering (Interim Dean 8/11-4/13), University of Alaska Anchorage. Administering BSCE, MSCE, MS Arctic Engineering and MS Applied Environmental Science and Technology degree programs, graduate certificate programs in Port and Coastal Engineering, Earthquake Engineering, and Environmental Regulations and Permitting. Teaching assignments have included Fluid Mechanics, Water Resources Engineering, Dynamics, Waves, Tides, and Ocean Processes, Coastal Engineering, Design of Ports and Harbors, Coastal Measurements, Hydrographic Surveying, and Arctic Engineering. Research at UAA, typically involving graduate and undergraduate students, has included analyses and publications related to Cook Inlet Ice Atlas, Alaska Sea Ice Atlas, Cook Inlet Beach Ice studies, Tidal Influences on the Lower Kenai River, Arctic Coastal Dynamics at Elson Lagoon, Barrow, Tidal Circulation in Tongass Narrows at Ketchikan, Tidal Circulation in Seward Harbor, Beach Stability at Nikiski, Alaska, and Wave Measurements and Analysis at Seward, Alaska, Knik Arm Bridge Conceptual Engineering, Coastal Erosion Responses for Alaska, and Climate Change Impacts on Alaska Infrastructure.

May 1997 to August 1998: Research Engineer, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Anchorage, Alaska, Research Engineer, proposing and leading teams of specialists to investigate ice properties and ice navigation in Cook Inlet and other coastal areas of Alaska and to support the Alaska District, Corps of Engineers, by project management and technical analyses for projects including Knik Arm shoal dredging, Whittier harbor expansion, Kivalina coastal erosion and relocation, and environmental infrastructure improvements in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Adjunct professor at Wayland Baptist University, teaching undergraduate oceanography, and at University of Alaska Anchorage, teaching graduate physical oceanography, wave mechanics, design of ports and harbors, and coastal engineering.

July 1991 to April 1997: Principal Investigator/Project Manager for federal port, harbor, coastal erosion, and flood control studies for the Alaska District Corps of Engineers, Anchorage. Led interdisciplinary teams of Corps, university, and contract specialists to investigate public works at Anchorage (Knik Arm Shoal), Cook Inlet, Barrow, Wainwright, McGrath, Whittier, Seward, Williamsport, the Northern Sea Route, the Kuskokwim River, and Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. Negotiated and supervised contracts for hydrographic surveys, geophysical surveys, exploratory drilling, soil and water sampling and testing for chemical contamination, port and harbor economic analyses, arctic ice and weather statistics, marine transportation numerical simulations, wind, wave, tide, commercial ship track measurements, and deployment of remote field camps. Collaborated with NOAA and Waterways Experiment Station to perform Knik Arm and Cook Inlet hydrographic surveys, sediment sampling, radioisotope dating of sediments, acoustic Doppler current profile measurements, water sampling and testing aboard NOAA ship Rainier and numerical modeling of tidal circulation and wave transformation. Performed water property measurements and in situ sampling in the Arctic Ocean aboard the US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea. Adjunct professor at Wayland Baptist University and University of Alaska Anchorage, teaching physics and oceanography.

August 1986 - July 1991: Director and sole proprietor, Smith Ocean Science and Engineering, Clayton, NC, performing contract engineering and oceanographic research services, including acoustical and in situ measurements (aboard R/V Pelican from Cocodrie, LA) of dredged material plumes at Mobile Bay, AL, development of database of Corps of Engineers coastal structures, evaluation of shore protection in Barbados, expert testimony on effects of Hurricane Hugo, design of harbors and erosion control in North and South Carolina. Clients included the US Army Corps of Engineers, World Bank, Government of Barbados, and a number of private developers, coastal property owners and attorneys.

August 1986 - November 1989: Engineer in private practice (see above) and doctoral candidate and post-doctoral researcher in physical oceanography at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.  Academic research included data collection and analysis and numerical modeling of circulation in the Caribbean Sea, North Atlantic, coastal waters, tidal inlets, and estuaries. Completed dissertation research on circulation of the eastern Caribbean Sea, involving one of the first comprehensive applications of shipboard acoustic Doppler current profilers with GPS positioning. Served in scientific parties and as Chief Scientist on offshore oceanographic cruises aboard the R/V Endeavor (2 North Atlantic cruises from Narraganset, RI and Norfolk, VA), R/V Cape Hatteras (two Gulf Stream current surveys from Beaufort, NC), and R/V Iselin (Chief Scientist, Caribbean and central Atlantic current and water property measurements, Miami to Belém, Brazil.

April 1983 - August 1986: Principal Investigator of applied research and public works projects at Coastal Engineering Research Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi. Led interdisciplinary teams in coastal studies at Homer Spit, Alaska, Fort Ord, California, Johnston Atoll (central North Pacific), Barbados, West Indies, and Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. Conceived and initiated the Automated Coastal Engineering System (ACES) of computer software for coastal engineering applications, now incorporated in the commercially available Coastal Engineering Design Analysis System (CEDAS).

December 1980 - April 1983: Chief of Navigation and Coastal Planning, Alaska District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Anchorage, Alaska. Supervised engineers, technicians, and contracted specialists in planning and design of erosion control, port dredging, and boat harbor developments all across Alaska. Principal Investigator of port and harbor projects at St. Paul Island, Kodiak, Whittier, Ninilchik, Dillingham, and the statewide bottom fish harbor study.  These multi-year projects, with budgets up to $600,000 each, involved logistical planning and supervision of field measurements on land and offshore.

July 1975 - December 1980: Chief, Navigation and Flood Control Branch, Alaska District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Anchorage, Alaska. Supervised up to 30 (during summer operations) engineers, technicians, surveyors, and equipment operators accomplishing hydrographic surveying, river channel clearing, and dredging, including operation of three government dredges, two survey vessels, and auxiliary equipment at Alaska sites, including annual contract maintenance dredging at the Port of Anchorage and emergency dredging of Knik Arm Shoal.

December 1973 - July 1975: Mechanical Engineer and Engineer-in-Training (intern) at Alaska District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Anchorage, Alaska

Teaching Responsibilities

Designed, processed through Governance into UAA catalog and taught,
  • CE A603 Arctic Engineering: after teaching several semesters, revised content for web delivery, leading to entire MS Arctic Engineering specialized curriculum CE A682, 683, 684, and 685) delivery via web; first UA degree program available by web delivery (2003)
  • ES AC030 Fundamentals of Arctic Engineering; short course approved by Alaska AELS Board for PE licensing requirement (led efforts of Arctic Engineering colleagues)
  • CE A674 Waves, Tides, and Ocean Processes for Engineers
  • CE A675 Design of Ports and Harbors
  • CE A677 Coastal Measurements and Analysis (with Robert Pawlowski)
  • GEO A433 Hydrographic Surveying (with Robert Pawlowski)
  • Port and Coastal Engineering Graduate Certificate
Also taught
  • ES A341 Fluid Mechanics (lecture and lab)
  • ES A210 Dynamics
  • ENG A151 Introduction to Engineering
  • Various FE and PE refresher seminars

Professional and Departmental Service

  • UAA Faculty Evaluation Task Force (2008-1010)
  • UAA Graduate Academic Board (2001 – 2004,Chair 2002-2003)
  • UAA Council for Scientific Research
  • Alaska Sea Grant Program Advisory Committee
  • UAA Faculty Grants and Leaves Committee (2 different 2-year terms)
  • UAA Faculty Evaluation Task Force (2000-2001)
  • UAA Honorary Degrees Nomination Committee
  • UAA School of Engineering (SOE) professional development seminar organizer
  • UAA Distance Education Policy Working Group (Chair)
  • UAA Graduate Council (as Chair of Civil Engineering)
  • University Police Auxiliary Emergency Team, Campus Emergency Response Team
  • UAA Search Committees (various SOE faculty and staff, previous Dean, previous Chancellor, Vice-Provost for Research)
  • Geomatics Advisory Board, ex-officio member
  • SOE Scholarship, Marketing, Computer, Peer Review, New Building Planning and other School committees
  • UA Project Manager, Girdwood Renewable Energy Research and Discovery Center feasibility study

(selected examples)

  • Alaska Governor’s Climate Change Sub-Cabinet, Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Group
  • Alaska Sea Grant Program Advisory Board
  • NOAA Integrated Service Assessment, Alaska Regional Collaboration Team
  • UA North by 2020, International Polar Year committee
  • Reviewer for
    • North Pacific Research Board (research proposals)
    • Alaska Dept. Natural Resources (permit applications)
    • ASCE Journal of Cold Regions Engineering (journal articles)
    • University of Southern California, METRANS Transportation Center (research proposals)

 Consulting (selected examples)

  • Discovery Channel, Mythbusters February 2008 Alaska episode (with speaking appearance)
  • Davison and Davison Attorneys (Anchorage, expert witness on harbor design and damage evaluation)
  • Jones Day (attorneys, Washington, DC, expert witness)
  • PND Engineers (design of Knik Arm Bridge and of harbor facilities at various Alaska locations)
  • Alaska SeaLife Center (sensor test facility and seawater intake replacement)
  • Alaska Ocean Observing System (statewide network of harbor data collection systems)
  • Kawerak Corp., (subcontractor to TerraSond) Little Diomede Island data collection system
  • GV Jones (coastal outfall design)
  • Todd Young (attorney, expert witness on coastal erosion issue)
  • Alaska Dept. Natural Resources (coastal processes seminars)
  • Alaska Sea Grant College Program (book preparation, Alaska Responses to Coastal Erosion)
  • ChevronTexaco and Geomega, review of coastal processes at Nikiski
  • BP Alaska, review of Northstar erosion control
  • Alaska Coastal Marine Institute/Minerals Management Service, Beaufort Sea longshore sediment transport studies
  • Kenai Peninsula Borough, coastal property owner guide book, shoreline trends analysis
  • Homer Electric (coastal outfall design reviewer)

Research Interests

  • Coastal, port, harbor, ocean, and Arctic engineering
  • Renewable energy
  • Climate change impacts on engineering works


  • Smith, O., and Hendee, M., 2011. Coastal Erosion Responses for Alaska in a Changing Climate, Alaska Sea Grant
  • Smith, O. and Williams, G., 2010. On the Coast: A Guide to Owning and Managing Coastal Property on the Kenai Peninsula, Kenai River Center, Kenai Peninsula Borough
  • Smith, O., Schibel, J., Hamilton, S., and Thomas, R., 2010. “Ice Navigation Curriculum using the AVTEC Ship Simulator, Seward, Alaska,” Proc., ICETECH ’10 Conference, Anchorage
  • Smith, O., and Hendee, M., (to publisher for printing), Coastal Erosion Responses for Alaska in a Changing Climate, Alaska Sea Grant
  • Larsen, P., Goldsmith, S., Smith, O., Wilson, M., Strzepek, K., Chinowsky, P., Saylor, B., 2008. “Estimating future costs for Alaska public infrastructure at risk from climate change,” Global Environmental Change, pp.1-16
  • Smith, O., 2008. “Alaska Responses to Coastal Erosion,” Proc., Solutions to Coastal Disasters, ASCE, Oahu
  • Smith, O., 2002. “Coastal Erosion in Alaska,” in Rachold, V., Brown, J., and Solomon, S., (eds.), Arctic Coastal Dynamics – Report of an International Workshop,” Reports on Polar Research, 413, Alfred Wegner Inst., Potsdam, pp. 65-68.
  • Smith, O., 2002. “Impacts of Climate Change on Transportation in Alaska,” in The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Transportation, US Dept. Transportation, Washington, DC
  • Smith, O., 2002. “Designing for Climate Change,” Proc., 53rd Arctic Science Conf., Am. Assoc. for Advancement of Science, Fairbanks
  • Mulherin, N., Tucker, W., Smith, O., Lee, W., 2001. “Marine Ice Atlas for Cook Inlet, Alaska,” US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, NH
  • Smith, O., 2000. Observers’ Guide to Sea Ice, NOAA Hazardous Materials Response, Seattle
  • Smith, O., May 1989, "Seasonal Variability of Circulation in the Eastern Caribbean Sea", Ph.D. dissertation (physical oceanography), Dept. Marine, Earth and Atmos­pheric Sciences, North Carolina State University
  • Smith, O., August 1986, "The Duration of Extreme Wave Conditions", M.S. thesis, Dept. of Civil Engineering, Mississippi State University