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T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award

Congratulations to Amit Varma on Winning the 2021 T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award!

The American Institute of Steel Construction has awarded its 2021 T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award to Amit H. Varma, Karl H. Kettelhut Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Bowen Laboratory of Large-Scale CE Research at Purdue University's Lyles School of Civil Engineering.

Varma will present "SpeedCore and Steel-Concrete Composite Construction: The Best of Both Worlds" at several points throughout the year. Varma will share what he's learned from more than 12 years of researching composite steel-concrete construction, highlighting experimental behavior, numerical modeling, and design of composite walls and the SpeedCore system for wind loading, seismic loading, and fire loading conditions.

"I first met Amit when AISC awarded him our first Milek Fellowship in 2004," said AISC Vice President of Engineering and Research Lawrence F. Kruth, PE. "Since then, he has become a world-renowned researcher in steel and fire. AISC is proud to recognize Amit for his outstanding research accomplishments. I look forward to hearing his keynote at the Steel Conference in April."

Varma has dedicated his academic and professional life to the development of innovative steel-concrete composite structures for the built infrastructure including commercial, industrial, and safety-related nuclear structures. He has conducted fundamental research leading to the development of design provisions for composite members, connections, and overall structural systems subjected to extreme loading conditions including seismic, fire, blast, and impactive loading.

"Amit Varma's research on SpeedCore is a game-changer for our industry," said Kruth. "His research includes not only the seismic resistance of SpeedCore but also performance-based fire engineering; his research has demonstrated that no additional fireproofing is required for SpeedCore."

About Amit Varma

Varma received his BS in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay ('94), MS from Univ. of Oklahoma ('96), and PhD from Lehigh University ('01). He has been an academic for 20 years and at Purdue University for 16 years. 

Varma’s research products are the basis of (and directly cited in) several AISC specifications (AISC 360, AISC 341, AISC N690) for the design of steel-concrete composite structures for building structures and safety-related nuclear facilities. He has previously received the AISC Milek Faculty Fellowship Award (2004), AISC Special Achievement Award (2017, 2020), and the ASCE Shortridge Hardesty Award (2019). 

Varma is the Chair of AISI/AISC Task Committee 8 on Fire Design, and member of Task Committee 5 on Composite Design. He is also a member of the AISC Committee of Specifications and ASCE/SEI 7 Standard Committee.

Varma lives in West Lafayette, Ind., with his mother, wife, and two daughters.

What is the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award? 

Each year, AISC's T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award recognizes an outstanding lecturer and author whose technical paper or papers, published during the eligibility period, are considered an outstanding contribution to the engineering literature on fabricated structural steel.

The award is named for Theodore R. Higgins, former AISC Director of Engineering and Research, who was widely acclaimed for his many contributions to the advancement of engineering technology related to fabricated structural steel. The award honors Higgins for his innovative engineering, timely technical papers, and distinguished lectures.

Winners will receive a framed certificate, which is presented at NASCC: The Steel Conference. Winners receive a $15,000 cash award and will present their lecture, upon request, at professional association events.


Bo Dowswell started in the steel industry in 1985 as a detailer. Since then, he earned BS, MS, and PhD degrees from Auburn University and The University of Alabama at Birmingham. As a professional engineer, his design practice focuses on steel structures. Currently, he is principal of both SDS Consulting, a design firm, and ARC International, which specializes in research and consulting. Bo Dowswell is also an adjunct professor at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his research and teaching is concentrated on steel connection design. Additionally, he provides consulting services for the AISC Steel Solutions Center.

Bo Dowswell is the author of AISC Design Guide 33--Curved Member Design, and he regularly publishes technical articles on steel design. He is a member of several AISC Committees, including the Committee on Specifications, the Committee on Manuals, the Committee on Research, and the Task Group on Industrial Buildings and Nonbuilding Structures. Bo Dowswell is also a member of the Structural Stability Research Council, where his activities are primarily related to connection element and beam stability.

Bo Dowswell's 2020 TR. Higgins Lecture is titled "Gusset Plates: The Evolution of Simplified Design Models." 


If your organization is interested in hosting a T.R. Higgins lecture, contact Christina Harber, director of education, at AISC reimburses the speaker's travel expenses for qualifying events.


Theodore R. Higgins joined the Institute in 1940 as chief engineer and was its director of Engineering and Research from 1945 to 1968. During his tenure, he was involved in all aspects of the Institute's wide variety of research activities. He played an especially prominent role in the more than 20 years of research, which led to the development of plastic design techniques for steel structures. Theodore authored the Institute's first manual on plastic design, Plastic Design in Steel.

A resolution adopted by the Institute's Board of Directors honored Higgins for his unparalleled service to the structural steel industry. The resolution defines him as a pioneer in developing the research and engineering principles which form the basis of steel design and construction today. "Theodore Higgins possessed that unique ability to translate research results into practical applications," the resolution reads.


Each year AISC invites a distinguished panel of industry experts to judge the nominations for the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award. The jury reflects a blend of professional insight, industry experience, and academic excellence.

The following jurors have been selected to judge the nominations for the 2022 award:

Michel Bruneau
University at Buffalo - SUNY
Buffalo, NY
Joel Chandler
Owen Steel Company
Columbia, SC
Matthew Eatherton
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA
John Rolfes
Milwaukee, WI
Tom Sabol
Englekirk Structural Engineers
Los Angeles, CA
Matt Smith
L&M Industrial Fabrication
Tangent, OR