Terry Peshia Early Career Faculty Award

Thanks for Helping Us Recognize Exceptional Steel Industry Professionals

Stay tuned for an announcement about the 2024 winners! The next nomination period for the 2025 Industry, Designer, and Educator Awards will open in mid-2024.


The Terry Peshia Early Career Faculty Award provides recognition to individuals who demonstrate promise in the areas of structural steel research, teaching, and/or other contributions to the structural steel industry. This award honors full-time faculty in Civil Engineering, Architectural Engineering, Architecture, Construction, or Construction Management at North American universities who are on the tenure track or have received tenure within the last three years. 

Early Career Faculty Award Winners


Hannah Blum, PhD
Assistant Professor and Alain H. Peyrot Fellow in Structural Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hannah Blum’s research encompasses a wide range of topics including the design and analysis of steel and stainless-steel members and systems; steel joists; structural stability; structural reliability; data-driven design approaches in structural engineering; mixed reality in structural steel fabrication; and virtual and augmented realities in structural engineering education. Her research work aims to improve and inform design specifications to produce resilient and efficient infrastructure.

Thomas Gernay, PhD
Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University

Thomas Gernay’s research focuses on the development of performance-based design and risk assessment methods for enhancing resilience of structures subjected to fire. His research aims to positively and profoundly impact the industry through new knowledge on the response of steel material and structures at elevated temperature; new structural fire design methods that are proposed in building codes committees; and development of software to enable simulation of the behavior of steel structures subjected to fire.


Rachel Chicchi Cross, SE, PE, PhD
Assistant Professor at University of Cincinnati

An assistant professor at University of Cincinnati since 2018, Chicchi has the advantage of being able to combine years of practical experience with her solid academic background. Her interests in steel research are forward-looking, especially when considering her focus on research on practical applications of high strength steels for building applications and her expertise on fire conditions, which led her to be an active participant in AISC Task Committee 8 (TC 8) - Design for Fire Conditions and in Task Committee 2 - Editorial, Economy, Efficiency, & Practical Use as the TC 8 liaison.

Ryan Sherman, PE, PhD
Assistant Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology

An assistant professor at Georgia Tech since 2019 and an assistant professor at UNLV from 2016 to 2019. Sherman has a range of steel building, bridge, and ancillary highway structure research experience, including large-scale structural testing, field monitoring, material characterization, and FEA simulation. His recent research explores the areas of metallic additive manufacturing, high-toughness steel fracture performance, and stability limit states of built-up I-section members. Impacts of his work on the steel industry offer the potential to optimize structural performance, integrate design and inspection strategies, and streamline design processes, resulting in more efficient steel structures.


Mark D. Denavit, PE, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Mark Denavit has served as an assistant professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville since 2016. Before this, he worked at Stanley D. Lindsey and Associates, Ltd. in the areas of structural design and erection engineering. He has taught courses in structural design, undergraduate steel design, and graduate level steel design. In 2020, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering recognized him with an Outstanding Teaching Award.

Denavit is a member of AISC Task Committee 5 Composite Design, AISC Task Committee 7 Evaluation and Repair, and an associate member of ASCE-7 Subcommittee on Snow and Rain Loads. He also served as the chair of the ASCE/SEI Technical Committee on Composite Construction. His PhD work, which included studies of the axial compressive strength of encased and filled composite columns, led to new and more accurate design equations that were included in the 2016 Specification for Structural Steel Buildings.

Denavit has conducted research over a range of topics on steel and steel-concrete composite structures. His work on ponding has the potential to transform the way this condition is evaluated in practice, leading to more efficient roof designs. His work on strongback systems, for which he was recently awarded a major grant from the National Science Foundation, may lead engineers to more frequently include strongbacks in building seismic force-resisting systems.

Erica Fischer, PE, PhD - Assistant Professor, Oregon State University

Erica Fischer has served as an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University since 2017. Prior to this, she spent two years as a design engineer for Degenkolb Engineers. She brings her practical experience into the classroom, where she teaches several structural engineering classes including an advanced steel course and a new structural fire engineering course that she developed. The OSU ASCE Student Chapter formally recognized Fischer’s teaching excellence with the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year award.

Fischer’s research focuses on the performance of structures subjected to hazards, as well as the co-benefits of buildings designed for multi-hazards. The research can demonstrate how the inherent properties of steel-frame buildings (ductility, robustness, sustainability) can contribute to improving the resilience, adaptability, and long-term sustainability of communities, thus promoting the use of structural steel.

Fischer serves on AISC Task Committee 8 AISI/AISC Fire Committee and the AISC Committee on Manuals and has received an AISC research grant to benchmark structural fire engineering modeling to large-scale experimental tests. This builds upon her past work investigating structural steel behavior under elevated temperatures.

Kara D. Peterman, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Kara Peterman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. At UMass, Peterman conducts research on cold-formed and hot-rolled steel system behavior, seismic response of those systems, and the stability of thin-walled steel members. Dedicated to professional service, she is a member of the American Iron and Steel Institute Committee on Specifications (where she chairs the Test-Based Design subcommittee) and Committee on Framing Standards. Peterman was elected to the Executive Committee of the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute and chairs the Education Committee. She also chairs the Thin-Walled Structures Task Group of the Structural Stability Research Council (SSRC). She recently received the 2021 McGuire Award for Junior Researchers from SSRC and the 2020 UMass Amherst ASCE Student Chapter Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2018 she received the Norman Medal, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ highest honor for a technical paper. At UMass, Peterman teaches courses in statics, strength of materials, structural design, and advanced steel design. Prior to joining UMass, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern University and received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University.


Emily Baker, AIA, Assistant Professor of Architecture, University of Arkansas

Emily Baker joined the University of Arkansas as an assistant professor in 2017. She previously served as an assistant professor at Tulane University and the American University of Sharjah. She spent five years practicing as a licensed architect and demonstrates a commitment to steel as a building material in her teaching and research. Baker provides her students with hands-on experience in steel design and fabrication. Her research and portfolio of work has explored digital fabrication and computation design and analysis to study and construct space frames using kirigami, a process of cutting and folding.

Negar Elhami-Khorasani, PhD, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo

Negar Elhami-Khorasani has served as an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo since 2016. Her research is primarily focused on fire and elevated temperatures on steel structures. In addition to research and teaching, she is professionally active in journal manuscript reviews, committee work, and community work bringing engineering to K-8 students.

Julie Fogarty, PE, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Sacramento

Julie Fogarty has served as an assistant professor at California State University, Sacramento since 2015. Her research regarding the behavior of deep, slender steel columns will potentially have a significant impact on the design practices in highly seismic regions. Research regarding local flange and web damage will also provide practicing engineers with the tools to quickly and appropriately assess the safety and stability of existing steel structures.


Matthew Yarnold, PhD, PE, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University

Yarnold focuses on research related to steel bridge design, performance and monitoring, including local buckling of trapezoidal rib orthotropic bridge decks, rapid testing of steel bridges, and hot rolled singly symmetric I-beams. In addition to his research, Yarnold focuses on teaching, where he strives to bridge the gap between classroom education and engineering practice. He provides his students with an opportunity to experience structural engineering projects first hand through construction site tours and steel mill tours. His real-world experiences help contribute to the knowledge-base of his lectures and allow him to provide a unique view of the industry as he explains steel class topics and implements models in class.

Matthew Hebdon, PhD, PE, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech University

Hebdon has broad experience in the steel industry, with current and recent research in fatigue and fracture, redundancy of steel bridge systems, bridge monitoring and testing, steel corrosion and mitigation, historic steel fabrication methods, evaluation and rehabilitation of deteriorated steel structures, and large-scale testing of structures. He has a passion for steel from the material level to the structural level, and will continue to engage with stakeholders in the steel bridge, fabrication and building sectors to propel steel innovation and research.


William N. Collins, PE, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas

Dr. Collins has been successful in the multifaceted roles of his position as assistant professor. His excellent teaching record, successful research portfolio and impactful professional service activities indicate that he will have a long and successful career as a professor and will continue to contribute to the structural steel industry through numerous avenues. All of the classes he has taught at KU are directly related to structural steel. These include undergraduate steel design, graduate steel building design and graduate fracture mechanics. In addition to teaching, he has created a variety of learning opportunities for students outside of the classroom. In the past three years he has taken more than 150 students to SteelDay events around Kansas and Missouri, which gives students a first-hand view of the structural steel industry and has even led to employment opportunities for KU graduates. In addition, he is working on a variety of projects with the potential to influence the structural steel industry. As principal investigator he is leading two major steel bridge related projects. The first is an NCHRP project examining the fracture toughness of heat-affected zones in welded steel bridges. The second is an exploration into the use of digital image correlation (DIC) to identify fatigue cracks as part of an automated inspection process. Collins is also contributing to this important area of research as a collaborator on a FHWA Pooled Fund project using elastomeric skin sensors to identify fatigue crack initiation on steel bridges without the need for human inspectors. He also serves as a member of two Transportation Research Board (TRB) committees, and is an active member of ASTM International committees related to fracture mechanics and impact testing of metals.


Ashley P. Thrall, PhD, Myron and Rosemary Noble Associate Professor of Structural Engineering, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Thrall is an innovative and dynamic researcher and teacher in the structural engineering group of the University of Notre Dame. She has a unique perspective that started early in her career studying historical structures and developing an understanding of their design. She went on to develop a deep mechanics-based analysis expertise which has blossomed into building the leading laboratory in the country focused solely on civil kinetic structures. The problems and methods she has tackled have been widely varied but always focus on out-of-the-box innovative design, incorporate the most advanced analysis, rapid prototyping and testing methods, and bring communities together whether in Europe or the U.S., integrating industry, consulting and academia. Her steel-focused work includes accelerated construction of steel bridges through adjustable connections and modular design, impacting both fabrication and erection costs and setting a firm theoretical framework to a very practical problem. Her digital image correlation methods applied to laser etched steel are revolutionary. She will be monitoring the steel girders of the new Tappan Zee Bridge using the digital image correlation methodologies. Her innovation and creativity are widely recognized and as a result her laboratory is very well funded through a diverse range of federal and state agencies, something that is extremely difficult to do in her area. Thrall has also been as innovative mentoring students in her laboratory and teaching classes as she has been in her research. She arms the students in her statics, steel and bridge classes with the ability to solve challenging and real world problems, as well as provides high school and graduate students exposure to the many and diverse aspects of her discipline through a wide range of opportunities, from field trips to lectures.


Patricia M. Clayton, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin

In her three years at UT Austin, Clayton has brought a tremendous energy, enthusiasm and passion for teaching and research. She has taught four different classes in elements of steel design, probability and statistics, earthquake design and advanced structural materials. In every class she has had incredible student evaluations, placing her near the top of all faculty at the university. Many students have commented that she is the best teacher that they have ever had among all of their classes at UT Austin. She has also hit the ground running on research. She is currently co-principal on six ongoing research projects funded either by the National Science Foundation or by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Several of these projects are focused on structural steel buildings or bridges, and all have the potential for improving the economy and competitiveness of structural steel for the building and bridge markets. Looking to the future, she is very interested in modular steel building construction as a means of decreasing construction time and cost. In addition, she's become involved in various professional committee activities and has made significant efforts to mentor students outside the classroom. She serves as the faculty advisor to a number of student organizations and has worked on a number of outreach activities in the local Austin Independent School District in an effort to attract young students to engineering.

Hussam Mahmoud, PhD, assistant professor and director, structural laboratory, at Colorado State University

He is a key member of the structures faculty at CSU where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on behavior and design of steel structures to highly laudatory reviews. His research focuses on fatigue and fracture assessment of steel structures, and the response of steel structures under extreme single and multiple hazards. He is equally strong in analytical and experimental research. His recently developed ductile fracture model has been validated against experimental studies and has been shown to yield accurate predictions. He has also conducted various studies on the response of steel structures under single and multiple hazards, including fire, fire following earthquakes, wind and earthquake effects. In addition to his teaching and research talents, he has been an outstanding campus citizen. He has served as the civil engineering department's ASCE student chapter faculty advisor for the past four years and as a member of the university's graduate school alliance for graduate education and professoriate faculty, which is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded program to promote faculty diversity.


Caroline R. Bennett, P.E., Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Kansas

Bennett has elevated scholarship in the area of structural steel through her teaching, research and service. Over the past few years, Bennett has transformed KU’s undergraduate steel design course to be firmly grounded in active learning. In addition, she has served as a leader in promoting best teaching practices at the university. She has been a Faculty Fellow with KU’s Center for Teaching Excellence (KU CTE) since 2012, and was appointed by the KU Dean of Engineering in 2014 to lead the School of Engineering’s Course Transformation Initiative. She has formed a sustained and focused structural steel research program at KU, and is already well on her way to becoming a national leader in the areas of steel bridges and fatigue and fracture. She has also served as Principal Investigator (PI) on numerous research projects that have direct positive effects on the structural steel design community, including retrofitting existing steel bridges for fatigue, improving the stability performance of steel structures and mitigating cracking in welded steel structures from galvanizing. She has been involved with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) committees for more than 10 years, and has recently become increasingly involved with the AASHTO T-14 committee on steel bridges, the AASHTO/NSBA Steel Bridge Collaboration, and the AISI Bridge Task Force. In addition, she has served as the faculty advisor for the KU Student Steel Bridge Team since 2006 and has grown the team from fewer than 10 students to an average of 30-40 students each year.

Matthew R. Eatherton
, S.E., P.E., Ph.D., assistant professor at Virginia Tech

Eatherton is a respected researcher, writer and presenter, and is being recognized for his excellent work in experimental and analytical research. His papers combine strong fundamental research with outcomes of practical significance and have been published in top journals including the ASCE Journal of Structural Engineering, the Journal of Constructional Steel ResearchEarthquake Spectra, and Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics. He has made significant research contributions in the area of seismic-resistant steel structures. His work on controlled rocking of self-centering braced frames is moving the profession forward by introducing an innovative new structural system that not only provides life safety during earthquakes, but also minimizes structural damage and building down time after an earthquake. His work on cutting patterns in steel plate shear walls to improve their performance is also an innovative idea with important practical applications, and his work on the effect of powder actuated fasteners in the protected zones of steel special moment resisting frames has already made a practical impact. In addition, he is active on AISC’s Seismic Design Manual committee and a member of the Building Seismic Safety Council Provisions Update Committee. Through his student evaluations, he has also proven to be an effective and well-respected teacher of structural steel design. Beyond formal classroom instruction, he regularly leads K-12 outreach efforts in the Blacksburgh, Va., community and for summer camps offered at Virginia Tech through the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity.

Jason P. McCormick, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Michigan

McCormick is a highly regarded structural steel researcher, educator and educational innovator. His research on the seismic behavior of metal structural systems has strongly impacted the steel design and analysis field. While at UofM he has conducted large-scale seismic testing of steel connections to hollow structural members. His extensive testing program has investigated new connection details using HSS beam and column members for seismic moment frames to increase the versatility of steel moment frames. He also performs ongoing studies on the use of non-traditional materials to enhance the seismic performance of steel frame systems, working with his students to inhibit or significantly delay local buckling, with the objective of improving the energy dissipation capacity of steel members. He’s received numerous university teaching awards and is an esteemed educational innovator. Currently, he’s working with colleagues on using virtual reality to explain complex concepts in the field of structural engineering. Working in a 3D lab, he immerses steel design students in a virtual environment to enable them to explore buckling concepts in an interactive way. In addition, he serves as a mentor for the university’s steel bridge team and is involved in activities aimed at improving diversity within engineering education. He’s also active on several influential committees within AISC and ASCE.

Christopher H. Raebel
, P.E., Ph.D., associate professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering 

Raebel is a skilled researcher, writer and esteemed teacher. His research interests involve experimental evaluation of structural steel connections, particularly related to their performance under unexpected loading scenarios, as well as robustness in structural steel framed buildings, performance of steel-framed floor systems subjected to occupant-induced vibrations and harvesting energy from vibrations caused by occupant-induced vibrations on steel-framed floors. He has developed a collaboration with Marquette University, which has allowed his graduate students to conduct enhanced investigations and has led to many new research opportunities for both universities. From his several years of experience as a consulting engineer, he is also able to deftly integrate both the theory and practice of engineering in the classroom. The high marks he receives on his student evaluations is a testimony to his skills as an instructor. In addition, he’s an active and respected member of two AISC technical committees: Member Design, and Evaluation and Repair. He is also a proven leader in the MSOE Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, serving as the program director for the Architectural Engineering Program.