In This Section
AISC Educator Awards honor individuals who have contributed to the success of the fabricated structural steel industry through their research, teaching, or a lifetime of outstanding service.
AISC is no longer accepting nominations for the 2024 awards. Stay tuned for the winners!
The Geerhard Haaijer Award, AISC's most prestigious Educator Award, is given only to individuals who, through their teaching and research, have had a profound and lasting impact on the structural steel design and construction industries. It is named for one of AISC's most respected vice presidents for Technology and Research.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have made a difference in both the success of AISC and the structural steel industry. It provides special recognition to individuals who have provided outstanding service over a sustained period of time to AISC and the structural steel academic community.
The Special Achievement Award provides special recognition to individuals who demonstrated notable singular or multiple achievements in structural steel education. This award honors living individuals who have made a positive and substantial impact on the structural steel design and construction industry through one or more particular projects.
The Terry Peshia Early Career Faculty Award provides recognition to tenure-track faculty who demonstrate promise in the areas of structural steel research, teaching, and other contributions to the structural steel industry.
2023 Educator Award Recipients
Michael D. Engelhardt, PhD, PE
Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
Engelhardt is best known for his research into seismic performance and design of steel structures following the Northridge earthquake in 1994. In the five years following the earthquake, he conducted more than 60 large-scale structural tests of connections for seismic force-resisting systems, which ultimately led to the development of the reduced beam section connections used in special moment resisting frames--one of the first modern moment connections developed after Northridge. That research earned him the 1999 T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award.
He also made substantial contributions to the development and adoption of eccentric braced frames for use as a seismic force-resisting system--an accomplishment that garnered a 2008 AISC Special Achievement Award.
But his seismic research breakthroughs are only part of the story. Engelhardt's recent research has broadened our understanding of how the properties of structural steel change during a fire, and other projects have driven innovations in the design and construction of skewed and curved steel bridges.
Engelhardt is the eighth recipient of the Geerhard Haaijer Award since its establishment in 1999. He also won an AISC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Engelhardt has served as a member of the AISC Committee on Specifications, AISC Task Committee (TC) 9 on Seismic Systems, the AISC Connection Prequalification Review Panel, and AISC TC 8 (Design for Fire Conditions).
Terri Meyer Boake - Professor, University of Waterloo
Recognized for her significant contributions to AESS (architecturally exposed structural steel) and architectural education as well as her service to AISC.
Robert J. Connor, PE - Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University Lyles School of Civil Engineering
Recognized for his significant contributions over many years to the advancement of design in the area of fatigue, fracture, and other performance and durability issues related to steel bridges as well as his service to AISC and the National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA).
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.
2022 Educator Award Recipients
Roberto T. Leon, PE, PhD
D.H. Burrows Professor of Construction Engineering, Virginia Tech
AISC's highest honor for educators, the Haaijer Award honors individuals for both their research and teaching. Leon is honored for his nearly 40 years of teaching, research, and professional leadership. He is internationally recognized for his work in seismic behavior and design of composite and hybrid steel-concrete structures, composite action in beam-slab systems, testing of full-scale and model structures in the laboratory, and field instrumentation of structures.
He also has served as chair of AISC's Composite Construction task committee and is a member of the AISC Committee on Specifications.
He has previously won the AISC T. R. Higgins Lectureship Award, the AISC Special Achievement Award, the AISC Lifetime Achievement Award, been elected a Distinguished Member of ASCE and elected a Fellow within ASCE, SEI, and ACI, the ASCE Norman Medal, the ASCE State-of-the-Art award on two occasions, the ASCE Tewksbury Award, and the ASCE Presidents Award.
Todd A. Helwig, PE, PhD
Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Recognized for significant contributions over many years to the advancement of design for structural stability with particular focus on bracing requirements (specification and design implementation); steel bridge research; and university education and continuing education related to steel design with a focus on bridge engineering and stability.
Robert Tremblay, PEng, PhD
Professor, Polytechnique Montréal
Recognized for significant contributions over many years to the advancement of seismic design of steel structures, including research on concentrically and eccentrically braced frames, controlled rocking systems, and bolted connections and for his significant role in international collaborations for the development of steel design standards.
Gian Andrea Rassati, PhD, and James Swanson, PhD
Associate Professors, University of Cincinnati
Recognized for their research on the behavior and design of bolted steel connections and their major contributions to the latest national design specifications for high-strength steel bolts (RCSC Specification).
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.
2021 Educator Award Recipients
Jerome F. Hajjar, PE, PhD - Professor, Northeastern University
Jerome F. Hajjar is a highly recognized researcher and educator of innovative steel and composite steel/concrete structures. His contributions to the field span more than 30 years and have led to the development of new resilient and sustainable structural systems; strength and stability design provisions for steel and composite structures; and nonlinear analysis formulations for structural stability and performance-based seismic design of steel and composite structures. Hajjar received the 2005 AISC T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award and a 2004 AISC Special Achievement Award. He is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and has received several awards from ASCE and other professional societies for his research and teaching. He has served on the AISC Committee on Specifications since 2006, as well as several of its task committees, and he chairs the Task Committee on Composite Design. As the CDM Smith Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University since 2010, he advances the civil engineering profession through research and education every day.
Jeffrey A. Packer, PEng, DSc, PhD - Professor, University of Toronto
Jeffrey Packer is one of the leading researchers and foremost experts on tubular steel structures in the world. In his 40-year career at the University of Toronto, he has conducted groundbreaking research on tubular steel members, connections, and structures and has published extensively on these topics, including numerous books and design guides. His work has significantly advanced both the state-of-the-art and the state-of-the-practice in tubular steel construction. His work has also had a major impact on design standards for tubular steel structures, including those in the AISC Specification for Structural Steel Buildings.
Packer served on AISC task committees that developed the Specification for the Design of Steel Hollow Structural Sections and has served on AISC Task Committee 6–Connection Design since 2002. In 2005, Packer received an AISC Special Achievement Award for his work on tubular structures. In addition to Canadian and international technical committees, he has also served as a member of the American Welding Society D1.1 Committees on Design (TG1) and Tubulars (TG7). The result of his work has had a profound and sustained impact on the structural steel industry.
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.
2020 Educator Award Recipients
W. Samuel Easterling, PE, PhD, Dean of Engineering, Iowa State University
W. Samuel Easterling currently serves as the James L. and Katherine S. Melsa Dean of Engineering at Iowa State University. His doctoral studies pioneered efforts to use steel deck-concrete slab systems to transfer lateral forces through floor systems in steel buildings. Easterling has received numerous accolades for his prolific body of work in the area of composite construction. He has given numerous seminars for AISC education programs and has served on several AISC committees. Easterling received AISC’s Special Achievement Award in 2012 and the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award in 2002.
Chia-Ming Uang, PhD, Professor, University of California, San Diego
Chia-Ming Uang is an internationally recognized research leader in structural steel with more than 30 years of outstanding work with an emphasis on seismic-resistant design. Uang completed his doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley in 1986 and then served on the faculty at Northeastern University for six years. In 1993, Uang joined the University of California at San Diego where he now holds the rank of professor in the Department of Structural Engineering. The findings of his research have made a large impact on design practice and on the AISC Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings (AISC 341). He has made significant and sustained contributions to AISC through his service on various committees. His work has also supported the prequalification of numerous moment connections in the AISC Prequalified Connections for Special and Intermediate Steel Moment Frames for Seismic Applications (AISC 358). Uang received AISC’s Special Achievement Award in 2007 and the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award in 2015.
Michel Bruneau, PhD, PENG, F. CAE, F. ASCE, F. SEI, SUNY Distinguished Professor, University at Buffalo
Michel Bruneau is recognized for his groundbreaking work in developing and promoting SpeedCore, a concrete-filled composite plate shear wall system that is revolutionizing the speed at which steel-framed buildings are constructed. His research and lab tests on tall shear walls were extremely valuable to the implementation of the system. Bruneau received AISC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and the T.R. Higgins Lectureship Award in 2012.
Amit. H. Varma, PhD, Karl H. Kettelhut, Professor of Civil Engineering, Purdue University
Amit Varma is recognized for his groundbreaking work in developing and promoting SpeedCore, a concrete-filled composite plate shear wall system that is revolutionizing the speed at which steel-framed buildings are constructed. His research and lab tests on tall shear walls significantly contributed to the successful implementation of the system. Varma received AISC’s Special Achievement Award in 2017 and Milek Fellowship Award in 2003.
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.
2019 Educator Award Recipients
Michel Bruneau, PhD, Professor, University at Buffalo
Bruneau has made major contributions to advancing the seismic design of steel structures for more than 30 years. This includes major contributions in the areas of special plate shear walls and eccentrically braced frames. The results of his research have been widely applied in the design of steel buildings and bridges, and his work has resulted in major additions to AISC’s Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings (AISC 341). Additionally, Bruneau has been a contributor and member of AISC Task Committees since 2001, and has also made major contributions in the areas of blast resistance and multi-hazard design.
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.
2018 Educator Award Recipients
Bruce Ellingwood, PE, PhD, NAE, F.SEI, DIST M.ASCE, Professor Emeritus, Colorado State University
Dr. Ellingwood is the recipient of the Geerhard Haaijer Award. Internationally recognized as an authority on structural load modeling, reliability and risk analysis of engineered facilities, Ellingwood is a prominent leader in the technical development and implementation of probability-based codified design standards for building structures. His research and professional activities involve the application of probability and statistics to structural engineering, particularly in structural reliability theory and probabilistic risk assessment. He directed the development of the general probability-based load criteria for limit states design that have appeared in successive editions of the ASCE/ANSI Standard on Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures since 1982, which are the basis for strength design in the U.S. His work has also been instrumental in the development of the load and resistance factor design methodology used in AISC specifications that forms the basis for modern steel design.
Don White, PhD, Professor Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. White has generously served AISC throughout his career. He’s been a member of the AISC Committee on Specifications since 2008, and has served on AISC Specification Task Committees TC3 – Loads, Analysis and Stability, and TC4 - Member Design since 2002, as well as the AISC Educator Awards Committee. He has also presented many successful webinars on behalf of AISC, and was the long-time faculty advisor to the Georgia Tech student steel bridge team, regularly appearing at the National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC). His research covers a broad area of design and behavior of steel and composite steel/concrete structures as well as computational mechanics, methods of nonlinear analysis and applications to design.
Thomas Sabol, SE, PhD, Principal, Englekirk, and Adjunct Professor, UCLA
Dr. Sabol has provided exceptional service and contributions over many years to AISC, the structural steel industry and the structural engineering profession. His sustained contributions have made a major impact on advancing the practice in seismic-resistant design of structural steel buildings, as well as advancing AISC standards and the use of structural steel. He has been responsible for the structural design of numerous mid- and high-rise buildings, institutional and educational structures and a wide range of other projects. He is also an adjunct professor at UCLA, where he has taught classes in structural and earthquake engineering for many years. He is a leader in the field of structural earthquake engineering, with a strong focus on seismic-resistant design of structural steel buildings. He was an active participant in the SAC-FEMA steel moment frame project after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and served as a lead guideline writer for this project. He has also collaborated with a number of university faculty on research related to seismic performance of steel buildings. In addition, he has served on various AISC committees for more than 20 years and has contributed extensively to AISC continuing education programs.
Keh-Chyuan Tsai, SE, PhD, Professor, National Taiwan University
Dr. Tsai is being recognized for his extensive work with U.S. researchers to conduct large-scale system level testing of structural steel seismic force resisting systems, leading to system-level verification of many of the AISC 341 provisions.
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.