Eric Paterson has been awarded the William H. Webb Medal by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) for his outstanding contributions to education in naval architecture and marine or ocean engineering.

Paterson, executive director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute and the Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Marine Propulsion, was presented with the medal in late October at the 2021 SNAME Maritime Convention in Providence, Rhode Island. 

“The Webb Medal is a huge honor to me," said Paterson. "As a faculty member, I spent several decades on advancing technology, solving specific problems, and working with graduate students and colleagues. As department head, I was able to pivot my attention to growing the aerospace and ocean engineering department and specifically the ocean engineering program to meet the demand from students and from partners like the U.S. Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding. To be recognized for impact on Ocean Engineering Education will be a highlight of my career."

Paterson was nominated by Frederick Stern, the George D. Ashton Professor of Hydroscience and Engineering at the University of Iowa. Stern served as Paterson’s undergraduate and graduate advisor, and as mentor for his postdoctoral and research scientist position during his time at the beginning of his career.

“Eric’s consummate achievements in the education of the past, current, and next generation naval architects and marine and ocean engineers is overwhelmingly worthy and exemplifies the traditions put forth by William H. Webb,” Stern wrote in his nomination. “Eric is the most can-do, unstoppable, enthusiastic, people-person I’ve ever known, which combined with his technical expertise and leadership skills has resulted in his outstanding contributions.”

Stern’s nomination comments were echoed by a number of Paterson’s colleagues, including a previous Webb Medal awardee, a university president, a distinguished international professor, and industrial and Navy collaborators. 

Alan Brown, the NAVSEA Professor of Naval Ship Design at Virginia Tech, previously received the Webb Medal in 2015. “Unbounded energy, unquestionable integrity, and unrivaled leadership,” Brown wrote of Paterson in his nomination. “His career has demonstrated remarkable and balanced multi-faceted distinction in education, administration, and research. He is a powerful mentor for junior faculty, even senior faculty, and a tireless promoter of our profession.”

For more than a century, SNAME has recognized technical achievements, leadership, and commitment via its peer-driven Medals Program, which invites members to identify and recognize individuals who stand out and truly make a difference in their profession. 

The Webb Medal was established in 1987 in honor of William Webb, a highly successful shipbuilder, shipowner, and educator in the late 19th century whose contributions to the marine profession and commitment to the education of naval architects, marine engineers, and shipbuilders took shape in the nonprofit Webb’s Academy and Home for Shipbuilders, now known as Webb Institute. 

In addition to his current role as executive director of Tech's newly formed National Security Institute, Paterson has held several leadership positions on campus. For more than two years, he served as interim executive director for the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology, and he led the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering as department head from 2012 to 2021.

Paterson has taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses, including resistance and propulsion of ships, submarine design, turbulent shear flow, and marine hydrodynamics. Throughout his career, he has supervised 50 master’s and Ph.D. students. His research expertise is in computational ship hydrodynamics, turbulence modeling, and the physics of stratified fluids and internal gravity waves. 

He is a distinguished SNAME Fellow, and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His past leadership roles for SNAME include  editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ship Research, chair of the hydrodynamics committee, and member of the H-08 propulsion hydrodynamics committee. 

Paterson earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa.

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