Engineer on Board

Catherine “Kate” Hale ’14 is improving water transit along the East Coast.

Kate Hale ’14 has a history with water. 

She grew up on Long Island’s North Fork, sailed in the summer, rowed crew in high school and at Simmons, and was surrounded by family members who had joined the Navy or Coast Guard (Hale herself is in the Coast Guard Auxiliary). And these days, after a near-detour in college, she’s an engineer helping to create safe, efficient water-based transportation.

“I’ve always been in the maritime world, and I found a part of it that I really liked, and just homed in on it,” says Hale. 

In January, she became the East Coast representative and systems engineer for the Seattle-based Elliott Bay Design Group. The naval architecture and marine engineering firm hired Hale to open their first office on the Atlantic Seaboard and establish a beachhead. She’s based in Port Chester, N.Y., but travels up and down the coast.

“In college, I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now. But Simmons actually prepared me for it.” —East Coast representative and systems engineer for Elliott Bay Design Group Kate Hale ’14

Hale’s job includes working with transportation agencies to design ferry landings that are safe for passengers—and the environment. She says the focus on environmental issues has intensified in the last two years “which is really awesome to see.”

“A lot of new fuel sources are coming out, so we’re working with hybrid, liquefied natural gas, and other natural gases,” says Hale. She collaborates with the naval architects who design vessels to make sure a new ferry meets the needs of a given port.  

Concept designs of passenger vehicle ferry (courtesy of Elliott Bay Design Group).

When Hale transferred to Simmons in the middle of her first year of college, she did not see a maritime career on the horizon. “I wanted to be a doctor, actually. That’s why I studied biology—I was doing the biology, pre-med track. But I shifted gears after I took a couple of environmental classes and really liked them,” says Hale. 

She ultimately majored in environmental science and biology, with a minor in sustainability. Along the way, she sharpened her research skills during a summer internship with the Riverhead Sewer District on Long Island, and on a summer trip to Iceland organized by chemistry and physics Professor Michael Berger. Hale credits those experiences with helping her prepare for graduate school, which she entered right after Simmons.

Hale completed a dual-degree master’s in maritime systems environmental engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, and then took a job with a design engineering company. 

“For three years, I worked on the New York City ferries, designing landings and helping implement safe, efficient ways for commuters to get from different areas of the city straight into Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn,” explains Hale. 

She says her liberal arts background enhances her effectiveness as an engineer. “When I’m talking to clients or co-workers, they often tell me I’m the most easy-to-talk-to engineer they’ve ever met. It definitely helps me explain a process or an issue in an understandable way to someone who hasn’t done that type of project before, or might not have a background in engineering.”“In college, I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now. But Simmons actually prepared me for it,” says Hale.