Prof Padraic O’Donoghue has been professor of civil engineering at NUI Galway since 1997, after previously having worked in University College Dublin as a lecturer in civil engineering for seven years.  

He holds a BE in Civil Engineering (1981) and MSc in Applied Mathematics (1982) from UCC and a PhD in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech (1985).

Prof O’Donoghue served as dean of engineering and informatics at NUI Galway from 2001-2010. He is a Fellow of Engineers Ireland and a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering. He has also served on various committees of the Royal Irish Academy since 1997.

Civil engineering was one of the original departments in Queen’s College Galway (former name for NUI Galway) when the university opened its doors to students in 1849 and it has offered a BE degree continuously since then. 

L-R: Professor Padraic O’Donoghue; former president of Engineers Ireland, PJ Rudden; and Jim Browne, past president of NUI Galway and past president of Engineers Ireland

Dominant branch of engineering

At the time of its inception, it was one of only six schools of engineering in Great Britain and Ireland. In the 19th century, civil engineering was the dominant branch of engineering and this was also reflected by the curriculum at NUI Galway.

Despite the first professor of civil engineering being appointed in 1850, Prof O’Donoghue was only the sixth person appointed as professor of civil engineering at NUI Galway. The professors of civil engineering include W Bindon Blood (1850-1860), Edward Townsend (1860-1910), FS Rishworth (1910-1946), WH Prendergast (1947-1957), JD O'Keeffe (1958-1996), PE O'Donoghue (1997-2021) and J Goggins (2020-).

Prof O’Donoghue’s research interests are broad, including: the development and application of advanced, non-linear computational methods in structures – finite element and boundary element methods; assessment of damage, shock loading and impact events for a wide variety of materials; fracture mechanics analyses of a wide variety of structures including gas pipelines, offshore structures and pressure vessels; transport engineering.

Strong research ethos

According to Prof Jim Browne, past president of NUI Galway and past president of Engineers Ireland: “During a distinguished career in NUI Galway, Prof Padraic O’ Donoghue oversaw the development of a strong research ethos in civil engineering while ensuring that the well-established commitment to the education and training of engineers in Galway was maintained.

"He worked with colleagues across the College and the wider University over many years to deliver, with the support of Galway University Foundation, the Alice Perry Engineering Building.  Padraic O’Donoghue continued the tradition of committed and dedicated professors of civil engineering in Galway.”

Prof O’Donoghue was instrumental in the creation of the Alice Perry Engineering building at NUI Galway, which was opened in 2011. The Alice Perry Engineering building is a truly iconic structure, which consolidates education and research activities in the various engineering disciplines into one building.

Green-building initiatives

It not only provides a learning environment, but itself acts as a teaching and learning tool. It is serving as a ‘living laboratory’ for engineering, where live data sets from numerous types of sensors are being used to illustrate structural engineering and building performance concepts in undergraduate teaching and in the development of full-scale research in structural engineering and energy. The building contains green-building initiatives, which have provided working models for students, researchers and engineering professionals for more than 10 years.

Prof O’Donoghue taught more than 1,500 civil engineering students in NUI Galway, providing a high-quality educational experience, support, mentoring and pastoral care for them. Shaping that many engineers is a huge influence on the engineering profession in Ireland and beyond.

In addition to the direct positive influence Prof O’Donoghue has on civil engineering students in NUI Galway (formally known as UCG), he has had significant impact on the engineering profession in Ireland through his involvement with Engineers Ireland, which is the professional body for engineers in Ireland and who accredits engineering degree programmes in Ireland. C

Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland, said: “Prof Padraic O'Donoghue has been an engineering leader for the past four decades. A Chartered Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Ireland, he was chair of the West Region in 2010-2011, a member of Council and played a leading role in projects such as 'Realised Vision and Engineering the West to 2020'. Through his teaching and research, he has guided and inspired many young engineering professionals and he continues to be an accreditation assessor for Engineers Ireland.”

'He was – and is – the essence of NUI Galway'

Prof Walter Gear, executive dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said: “I would like to wish Padraic all the very best as he moves into a very well-earned retirement, and thank him for his immense contribution and dedication to engineering and NUI Galway over many years.

"He helped put engineering at NUI Galway on the map and always has insisted on the highest standards in research and teaching. Even in his final year of working, rather than pushing back his chair, Padraic took over as interim Head of School when there was a hiatus between appointments, which I think is totally typical of his dedication to the cause.”

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, president of NUI Galway added: “‘I always felt Padraic had a great, quiet wisdom. I sensed that everything he did, he did with the best interests in mind, the best interests of students, colleagues, the university and society at large.

"He was – and is – the essence of NUI Galway and of his profession and academic calling as a civil engineer. Like all great educators and all great engineers, what he did will live through generations that follow. We wish him a long and contented retirement, knowing that he will always be welcome in NUI Galway.”