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Professional Profile: Patrick Jones

Lab Manager speaks to Patrick Jones, Science & Technology Studio Leader with SmithGroup in Dallas

MaryBeth DiDonna

Patrick Jones is Science & Technology Studio Leader with SmithGroup in Dallas, TX. Lab Manager recently spoke with Patrick about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Patrick Jones, SmithGroup, Professional Profile for Lab Manager

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers along the way, etc.?

A: I initially started my collegiate path studying archeology. While I very much enjoyed its historical aspects, it was not scratching the creative itch I had at the time. I decided to pursue architecture, not because I knew anyone that inspired me or because alphabetically it was the next major, but because I thought I was good at math and liked to draw. I was lucky enough to attend the University of Texas School of Architecture and earned my bachelor of architecture.

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: A typical day at work for me involves bouncing between the world of project pursuits and business development, project management and staff relations, and diving into the weeds of laboratory design and planning. This full range experience is something that I very much enjoy, and the discussions and focuses for each are significantly different and challenging.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: Well, now that I have aged out of ever dreaming of being a professional baseball player, I think that if I was not an architect I would likely have remained on the archeological path. I still have dreams of being on an archeological dig and discovering dinosaur bones and fossils that help fill in the historic gaps of life on our planet.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: A common misconception related to leading a studio, like a Science & Technology studio, is the intimate knowledge required of all the diverse types of science. While I have spent the last 15 years or so working primarily on S&T projects, I can honestly say no two projects are the same—not just architecturally, but also in terms of research missions and how the facilities support that research. 

I have spent much of my time working with researchers during laboratory planning to understand their process and flows, to which the design responds. In this time, I have realized the value of listening, learning, and collaborating with these extremely intelligent individuals. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you do have to be able to communicate and facilitate discussions with experts to ultimately provide a successful design that meets the needs of today with the ability to adapt for the future.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: My favorite building that I have ever visited in-person—I qualify in-person because buildings are meant to be experienced, not just looked at in a photograph—is the original Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Louis Kahn’s effectiveness at creating an experience of calm and place through simple materials and forms is just magical to me. Although I have not been to the building, as for a lab building, I am sure Louis Kahn captured this same magic at the Salk Institute.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?

A: Currently, I am working on the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) Biomedical Engineering building in Dallas, Texas. It is a new five-story, 150,000+ GSF Flexible Laboratory Building with wet and dry laboratory space and is currently under construction. The facility will connect engineers and scientists with direct access to physicians and patients at UTSW, with the ultimate goal of improving technologies to advance patient care. In addition to the neighborhoods of open laboratories and laboratory support spaces, it will include a large assembly/design studio, a metal fabrication shop and rooms for 3D printing. I am also about to kick off work on a fascinating federal laboratory project dealing with battery capacities and capabilities that will be approximately 140,000 GSF.

Q: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

A: Funniest thing to have happened to me at work was at a work-related charity golf tournament. (Qualifier: I am not a good golfer.) Looking ahead to playing at this charity golf tournament, my wife bought me some golf balls that said “money” on them. A little silly, but still golf balls. Well, I used those golf balls and on hole 9 or so, I teed off and the ball sailed into the air and then curved quickly to the right. On the right-hand side of the course was an apartment complex. As I studied the ball flight and it disappeared over the hill, I then heard a loud thud. Upon approaching the location of the ball, a gentleman was standing at the fence line holding the ball. Apparently, it hit his BMW, right smack on the roof … while he was working on the car. He proved this by sending me a picture of the dent on his hood alongside the “money” ball. All worked out okay, but others have had some fun with that one.

Q: If you won a million-dollar lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?

A: A million dollars is not quite what it used to be, but if I did win it tomorrow, I am sure I would take 75 percent of it and put it towards retirement and my kids’ future. That remaining 25 percent would most likely go toward home upgrades and creating a travel fund from which all family vacations in the future would be as fabulous and extensive as possible.

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: While I would love to say I have some very interesting hobbies, I honestly don’t. With a nine-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son, most of my free time is spent supporting them. I guess you could say being a dad is my hobby. Between school activities, swim and jiu-jitsu for my son, and Irish dancing for my daughter, my time is pretty much accounted for outside of work. I can honestly say I would have it no other way.