Amazing Students Profiles

Iain Risk

Iain Risk

Iain Risk, the Engineering Student of the Year, once traveled deep into Nicaragua to help build a badly needed bridge. The experience was one of many during his time at UGA that prepared him for his new career in construction.


Lawrenceville, GA

High School:

Collins Hill High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in civil engineering

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Beginning with my freshman year, I went through fraternity rush and joined the University of Georgia chapter of Delta Sigma Phi. During my first few years of school, I held various leadership positions within the fraternity, which in turn taught me dedication and leadership skills. From that point, I began to shift more of my attention toward the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and I was elected treasurer a year prior to becoming president. As president, I organized professional presentations and construction site visits, and I led chapter meetings twice a month. With each meeting, I worked to contribute to student learning and experience by providing real world examples and applications of the field from civil engineering.

Also throughout my time with ASCE, I made relationships with current professionals by attending industry sectional ASCE meetings, in both Athens and Atlanta. Through the great relationships I developed, I was invited as the only student member of a team of engineers that traveled to Nicaragua to build a pedestrian bridge that spanned a deep channel and divided a remote residential community. Our team cooperated with the Rivers of the World charity organization and we were able to complete the project this past summer.

Recently, I was elected the Engineering Student of the Year for 2017 by the Georgia Society of Professional Engineers. Additionally, I was selected to receive the UGA College of Engineering Undergraduate Merit Award for Service.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am actually the first in my family to attend UGA, but my younger sister has also attended Georgia and will start in the pharmacy program here this fall.

I chose to attend UGA because…

At the time of my admittance, UGA had a brand new College of Engineering, and I saw this as a huge opportunity to be a part of a blossoming great program. Also, I really looked forward to the social benefits of attending a less technically focused school while receiving a high-quality education.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

At the top of my list, there’s really nothing like wandering campus before a football game on a Saturday in the fall. I also enjoy participating in intramural sports and eating at the dining halls. I’ve been on the school’s meal plan for the duration of my undergraduate time here, and I just don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. I’m seriously worried about what I’m going to do after I graduate. I think I’m going to need to find a way for Frank to ship me clubs somehow from Snelling for my lunches.

When I have free time, I like…

Between school and my extra-curricular activities, I stay very busy during the week. My free time generally comes on weekends, and I like to take advantage of everything Athens has to offer. From great restaurants to a booming music scene, there’s always places to be and people to see. Beyond that, I like to play golf when I can and (unfortunately) I’m a big fan of the Braves, Falcons and Hawks.

I also enjoy woodworking as a hobby, particularly when I get the chance to go back to my parents’ house for an extended period. Luckily, my dad loves power tools as much as I do, so I’m rarely limited by my tools. I’m far from the skill level of Ron Swanson, but I certainly enjoy small projects when I get the chance.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

… travel to Nicaragua with a group of engineers to build a pedestrian bridge in a jungle community deep in rural Nicaragua. As I mentioned, this opportunity came through my involvement in ASCE, and the team I was a part of worked closely with the nonprofit organization, Rivers of the World (ROW). With a plan set and a mission ahead of us, we made the trip to Nicaragua this past summer in late May. We first took a flight to the capital city, Managua, prior to boarding a connecting flight to a small city, Bluefields, in the eastern side of the country. From there, we took a four-hour boat ride up the coast and inland in an eight-person johnboat through white-capped waves and pouring rain. When we arrived at a camp ROW had established, we met the locals and I attempted to communicate with my very poor Spanish skills. In the days that followed, my team and I, along with a number of the locals, worked tirelessly through the summer Nicaraguan sun and humidity to build the substructure of the bridge a P.E. on my team had designed, spanning a steep ravine in order to connect the sizable community that had been divided. In the five days’ time, we were able to install the substructure of the bridge and we did our best to leave the organization and the locals with the information needed to complete the bridge. Fortunately, we received word at the end of July that the bridge had been completed and the locals were extremely thankful for our work. Now, looking forward, we hope that this bridge can serve as a model for future bridges, and I, along with my team, look forward to any future opportunities to stay involved and aid ROW in its humanitarian efforts.

My favorite place to study is…

… the upstairs undergraduate computer lab at Driftmier.  With a number of large individual cubicles, I’m able to comfortably spread out and stay organized.  I’ve clocked in a staggering amount of hours in that lab over the years, and I’m very thankful to the College of Engineering for that study space.

My favorite professor is…

… Dr. Stephan Durham.  He has taught a number of classes that I’ve taken, from our freshman seminar, to junior level civil engineering classes, to upper level civil electives. His lectures are exceptional and he has such a power to always keep students involved and entertained. As our program coordinator, Dr. Durham is an extremely hard-working individual and he always commits as much time as necessary to his students, no matter how tight his schedule is.

In addition, Dr. Siddarth Savadatti and Dr. Sidney Thompson have also been among my favorite professors.  They are both phenomenal lecturers, and they respectively have a great power to bring out the best work in students.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

… Elon Musk.  As many people say, he’s the real life Tony Stark, and I’m always excited to see his name in headlines considering his overwhelming benevolence in comparison to many people in similar positions of power. I can always rely on Elon Musk to provide an optimistic break from the tone of our current news stories.  I like to think that his self-reliance and faith in science are things that I could relate to, and it would be fascinating to hear about his future plans and involvement in Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity.  I would also love to hear any of his keys to success and any opinions he hasn’t given to a reporter.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… fund an organization very similar to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  If money was truly no object, and I somehow had the power to operate an organization on a global scale like the Gateses do, I would do my best to improve education, health care and extreme poverty.  I would aim to develop partnerships with professionals that know exactly how to take the proper steps to solve such problems. This would be far from a one-person task, and I would do everything I could to form the right team to support a mission of that scale.

After graduation, I plan to…

This summer, I’ll be start my career in construction with Whiting-Turner. Working for a major contracting company means I’ll be traveling quite a bit over the years to wherever my assigned project is, but I have my fingers crossed that I’ll get the opportunity to remain in Atlanta for at least a couple years.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

This past year, with it being my last year in school, I traveled to a number of away games.  Of course each year, I’ve made a stop in St. Simons prior to riding down to Jacksonville to watch the Dawgs take on the Gators, and those trips have given me memories I’ll never forget.  However, this year, my roommate and I made a last-minute decision to take the 11-hour drive to Columbia, Missouri, and watch the Dawgs play.  Watching Jacob Eason complete the final pass of the game to Isaiah Mackenzie for the 28-27 win over the Tigers and witnessing their stadium go from electric to silent may make the top of the list.