AISC Undergraduate Fellowships Support Research in 3D-Printed Structural Connections, Modular Steel Bridge Decks

The American Institute of Steel Construction’s Education Foundation is pleased to present Undergraduate Research Fellowships to two exceptionally promising students.

Aneesh Kakirde of Rutgers University and Haixin Zhou of Washington University in St. Louis will each receive $2,500 to conduct research projects during the fall 2022 academic term.

"These fellowships prepare today's promising students to become tomorrow's thought leaders," said AISC Director of Research Devin Huber, PE, PhD. "Domestic structural steel is already the most sustainable, resilient, cost-effective, fast, reliable, and adaptable material on the market, and great ideas from promising young researchers like Aneesh and Haixin will continue to keep steel on the cutting-edge."

Kakirde's research proposal explores the potential for modular steel bridge decks to increase the speed of steel design and construction while updating the country's aging infrastructure with bridges that will offer extended service lives. Faculty sponsor Sougata Roy is leading a U.S. Department of Transportation-funded research project that aims to develop standardized designs for open rib steel orthopedic bridges, ideal for widespread use in short- to medium-span bridges.

"I am excited to be involved in analyzing modular steel bridge decks with the finite element method and parametrically develop cost-efficient designs," said Kakirde. "I hope this research experience will help me to excel as a bridge and structural engineer exploring innovative solutions to challenging societal problems."

Zhou, working with faculty sponsor Hongxi Yin, will study new structural and architectural components that can be made with wire-arc additive manufacturing (a form of 3D printing with steel). The goal is to develop a prototype steel connector for the Department of Energy's 2023 Solar Decathlon competition. Zhou will collaborate with industry stakeholders such as Lincoln Electric and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

"The process of starting from a rough design to a final articulated design is incredibly exciting," Zhou said. "Collaboration with Lincoln Electric would allow a physical model of the connector, which is also a huge milestone for the research and would be very satisfying to reach that point. I hope this experience will open a door of opportunity for me."

The AISC Education Foundation’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship supports students studying structural steel design and construction topics, either as standalone projects or as part of a larger research effort.

For students, this is an opportunity to work independently and actively participate in research to develop a better understanding of steel design and construction. This experience may open opportunities for master's or PhD work or enhance a resume for post-graduate industry positions.

For faculty sponsors, a fellowship allows an undergraduate student to assist in their research and may attract an outstanding undergraduate student to attend graduate school to continue with related research.

This is the second year the AISC Education Foundation has offered Undergraduate Research Fellowships, a program supported by the Foundation’s Funding the Future campaign. Please visit to learn more about the AISC Education Foundation.