Christopher McKesson

Chris McKesson


Department of Mechanical Engineering

Professional focus:

Chris McKesson has 30 years’ experience, focusing primarily on unconventional projects and programs. He has held many positions of responsibility during his career as a Naval Architect, ranging from managing a small design bureau to representing the United States as technical expert to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He has represented the state-of-the-art in ship design to staff of the United States Congress, and he has represented his company before clients, and the clients before their customers.

Whereas in early days “unconventional projects” tended to mean an emphasis on speed, in recent years it has included unconventional propulsion systems, or an ‘unconventional’ emphasis on environmental stewardship. Chris has completed several projects dealing with marine environmental issues, including a multi-year study of alternative fuels and alternative propulsion systems for the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority (2000-2001), the design of a fuel-cell powered ferry also for the WTA (2001-2002), and the assessment of environmental impacts of a new ferry class for the Washington State Ferries (2004).

In 2008, Chris chose to focus upon the formation of a future generation of naval architects, by pursuing a career as a university instructor. He completed a 2010 Master’s and a 2013 Ph.D, both at the University of New Orleans. He joined UBC in 2014.

The combination of a love of the sea, an appreciation for and understanding of the needs of the seaman, and technical training as a naval architect makes him a unique and sought after instructor.

Prior to UBC:

Before coming to UBC, Chris was mostly in the orbit of the Pentagon. He began and ended his commercial career as an employee of Alion Science & Technology, first from 1980 to 1984, and then again from 1997 to 2008. Between those events he was a US Government employee, during which time he spent one year attached to the US Embassy in Paris as an exchange scientist with the French Navy. He was eventually promoted to Head of the Advanced Vehicle Design Section. He left navy employment at the end of the Cold War during a period of Navy downsizing. During that interval he was involved in the fast ferry sector, including being retained by the BC Parliament as an independent expert during forensic analysis of the BC Ferries “Fast Cat” program. As mentioned above, he returned to Alion in 1997, and then returned to Grad School in 2008.


Chris is a Fellow of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and a 2000 recipient of a Public Service Commendation from the United States Coast Guard.

Personal interests:

Chris and his wife are avid sailors, with several thousand miles of cruising under their keel. They enjoy spending their summers in the beautiful harbours of British Columbia

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