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Tor Hansen

Vice President, Senior Civil Engineer

Preparing for an inspection at a hydroelectric facility
Hiking with his daughters in Norway
Skiing with his family along Minnesota's north shore
Tor Hansen grew up in Minnesota the son of an engineer, but he really didn’t know which career he wanted to pursue when he started at St. Olaf College, a liberal arts school.

“I entered as an economics major,” said Tor, “but I realized freshman year that I enjoyed my physics classes more so I switched majors. There aren’t that many career paths for a physics major though so I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I had no interest in becoming a theoretical physicist.”

During his sophomore year, he signed up for an introductory engineering course and liked it so much he decided to enter the 3-2 year engineering program—three years at the liberal arts college and two years at a partner engineering school. The program allowed him to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics as well as one in civil engineering with structural emphasis in five years. After graduation, he interned at Barr and never left.

“When I decided to be an engineer, I thought I’d be designing buildings—offices, schools, and such,” said Tor. “Instead, I got into the dam, power, and hydropower industries.”

He quickly learned that each dam has its own challenges and issues, and that working on dam projects requires a broad engineering background, including an understanding of structural, civil, geotechnical, hydraulic, and hydrologic issues.

“When performing dam inspections, evaluations, and modifications, I’ve gotten to work with and learn from a variety of engineering disciplines,” said Tor, “like geotechnical engineers on seepage and stability issues or electrical and mechanical engineers on turbines at hydroelectric plants.”

During the last several years, Tor has put his multi-discipline knowledge to good use on a large hydroelectric plant in the upper Great Lakes region—performing federally required inspections, evaluating the concrete powerhouse, and designing and analyzing structures to accommodate loads of several hundred tons.

“Work on projects for the power industry requires knowledge of many different types of structures,” said Tor, “often large and massive ones that are located in and around buildings to support heavy equipment.”

Outside of work, Tor enjoys using his downtime to waterski, downhill ski, boat, and travel with his wife and daughters.

“In Minnesota, you need to find outdoor winter activities, and I have skied since I was young,” said Tor. “Now that my daughters are old enough to join me, I’ve really enjoyed being able to share this love of skiing with them—although now I can barely keep up.”