Ted Vinson Testimonial

Recollections of a Former PhD Student

It is my distinct privilege and pleasure to write a few words about Professor James K. Mitchell’s influence on my professional career. I was one of Jim’s earlier PhD students when he was a faculty member at UC Berkeley. It was the era of the first lunar landing and several graduate students, including myself, worked under a large NASA research project which Jim secured.

Professor Mitchell provided excellent guidance in my dissertation research and was always clear and direct in the requirements to complete my research work. This aspect of his character was very much appreciated. Jim was extremely helpful in reading my dissertation and taught me to be an effective technical writer. As I moved through my professional career, at junctures where recommendations were required, he apparently gave good letters of recommendation. I was almost always successful to make various professional moves. When I spoke to him to obtain a letter Jim also provided words of wisdom.

I did not continue my dissertation research as a young faculty member at Michigan State University. I became involved in two totally new areas of research: soil dynamics and cold regions engineering. I continued research and consulting in these areas throughout my career. However, I noted the incredible diversity in Professor Mitchell’s professional interests and was not afraid to venture into other research arenas. Several were well outside geotechnical engineering and included: centrifugal modeling to determine ice/offshore structure interactive forces, quantification of the terrestrial carbon cycle in the former Soviet Union (FSU), sequestration of greenhouse gases (GHG) through afforestation and reforestation projects in Russia, and capture of GHGs in the natural gas pipeline transmission system of Russia and landfills in Argentina. These later projects were recognized and certified under the US Initiative on Joint Implementation.

I always felt prepared for new challenges because of the excellent undergraduate and graduate education at UC Berkeley provided by truly outstanding and dedicated faculty members such as Professor James K. Mitchell. Fundamentally, a diligent UC Berkeley student

Learns to learn.…learns to think…..and builds confidence in their ability to do so.

On one occasion a former Jim Mitchell PhD student (who was a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks) commented to me “Of all of Jim Mitchell’s graduate students that I am aware of you have most closely
mirrored him with respect to the diversity of research areas in which you have been involved.” This was an extremely kind remark for this friend to state and one in which I have great pride. Hopefully it is true. This is the greatest gift that Professor Mitchell gave me……the courage to become involved in many arenas of engineering research and practice always relying on the wonderful education he and other faculty members provided during my undergraduate and graduate days at UC Berkeley.

Thank you Jim for your incredible and unique contribution to my professional career. Best personal regards always.

Ted Vinson, PhD, PE, GE
Professor Emeritus
Department of Civil and Construction Engineering
Oregon State University

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