employees, families and friends participate in Duluth’s dragon boat race each summer
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Whitney Hansen

Senior Civil/Structural Engineer

Whitney atop a wind turbine in Nebraska
Whitney inspecting a tainter gate at a Wisconsin hydroelectric facility
Whitney with her husband and daughter camping at a Minnesota state park
From a young age, Whitney Hansen was taught to think critically about how things were designed and built, and would hike in and out of remote locations on work trips with her father—a bridge engineer with the U.S. Forest Service in Montana.

“I couldn’t believe that it was actually work,” laughed Whitney. “My parents raised me to love the outdoors, so when I started thinking about my own career, I knew I wanted a job where I could be outside and get paid for it too.”

Until her junior year of high school, Whitney wanted to be a teacher, but then her love of math and science called to her.

“I realized that I wanted the academic challenge of an engineering degree in college,” said Whitney. “I figured I could always switch back to teaching if it wasn’t a good fit.”

She joined Barr as a water resources engineer, but her career shifted when Barr needed onsite construction observers for wind-turbine foundation projects in remote locations.

“I really liked the structural component of the work so I went back to school for a master’s degree in structural engineering,” said Whitney. “A lot of my work now involves repairing or replacing structural components at aging dams and hydroelectric facilities. There’s satisfaction in upgrading facilities to improve public safety.”

Whitney also worked on a large, multiyear project to replace a penstock at a hydropower facility in Michigan.

“I worked on the options study for the pipe material and designed and inspected the new 2.5-mile-long, 84-inch-diameter steel pipe that carries water to the powerhouse,” said Whitney. “I was there during construction and the initial startup—when the pipe was first filled with water. It was exciting when the powerhouse started generating energy.”

Even when she’s not at work, Whitney likes to be outside with her family—gardening, running, hiking, backpacking, and camping—penchants she developed growing up in Montana and hopes to instill in her daughter.

“In my hometown, you can drive five minutes and be in the mountains,” said Whitney. “I also spent four summers during college as a camp counselor near Glacier National Park, leading high school students on backpacking, canoeing, and kayaking trips. I loved it.”

And when she needs a break?

“I settle down with a good mystery book!”