Undergraduate Research Fellowships

2022 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

AISC is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Undergraduate Research Fellowships. Each recipient will receive $2,500 to conduct their respective proposed research projects during the Fall 2022 term. Below are the details of the winning projects:

The Development and Demonstration of Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) in Structural Connections for Buildings

Student Name: Haixin Zhou
Faculty Sponsor: Hongxi Yin
Institute: Washington University in St. Louis

This project will study whether Wire-Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) used in conjunction with topology optimization techniques can be effectively and efficiently used in creating new structural and architectural components that can provide more structural flexibility, optimization of material utilization, and enhanced aesthetic appeal. WAAM is a technique of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) with steel that uses equipment capable of a high deposition rate of the metallic feedstock (welding wire) to ‘print’ three-dimensional objects of varying complexity. For this project, the research team will engage and collaborate with key industry stakeholders including Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Lincoln Electric in the design and manufacturing sectors, respectively. Through these research activities and collaborations, the team intends to develop a prototype steel connector that could be used in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathalon competition for 2022. Ultimately, as WAAM is somewhat in its infancy for structural and architectural applications, this work has the potential to further demonstrate practical uses for the technology within the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry.

Modular Steel Bridge Decks for Speedy Construction and Extended Service Life

Student Name: Aneesh Kakirde
Faculty Sponsor: Sougata Roy
Institute: Rutgers University

This project aims to address one of AISC’s current goals of increasing the speed of steel design, fabrication, and construction while also taking on the critical issue of updating America’s aging bridge inventory. The efforts of this Undergraduate Research Fellowship tie into a larger research project funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) entitled Cost-Effective Bridge Decks for Improved Durability and Extended Service Life, led by faculty sponsor Sougata Roy at Rutgers University. The primary goal of the larger USDOT project is to develop standardized designs for open rib steel orthotropic bridge decks for widespread use in short- to medium-span bridges. For  Undergraduate Research Fellowship, three-dimensional Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modeling techniques using the 3D commercially available program ABAQUS in conjunction with Python scripts will be utilized to conduct parametric studies of open ridge orthotropic bridge decks. Through the completion of these parametric studies, it will be possible to examine the 3D stress state of different designs and recommend standard designs developed and compared with experimental data from the larger USDOT project. This project will help the student achieve sophisticated engineering modeling and analysis techniques and will also support a larger endeavor that will greatly advance the state-of-the-art for short- and medium-span steel bridges.

Program Information

The AISC Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program funds undergraduate students under the direction of faculty sponsors to study structural steel design and construction topics for one term (semester or quarter). This research can be done as a standalone project or part of a larger research project.

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 supports an undergraduate student to assist in their research and may attract an outstanding undergraduate student to attend graduate school to continue with related research.

Find some general information on the basic requirements for the program below. Look out for specific information for the upcoming 2023 Undergraduate Research Program in Spring 2023.

Student Requirements

  • Applicants must be undergraduate students enrolled at a U.S. university that will be full-time or part-time students during the award term.
  • Applicants must have the support of a faculty sponsor at the time of application.
  • Fellowship recipients will meet with the AISC Committee on Research for a kickoff and midterm check-in call.
  • Fellowship recipients will submit a summary report to AISC at the end of the research project.

Faculty Sponsor Requirements

Mentors play an important role in the undergraduate research process by assisting students in making the transition from classroom learning to real-world applications. It can also be very valuable for researchers to contribute to students’ development and their confidence to pursue a successful career. In addition, close interaction between students, faculty, and other research personnel exposes students to research processes, methodologies, and to higher levels of learning. The faculty sponsor should be prepared to do the following:

  • Regularly meet with the student to help guide the research
  • Provide the resources necessary to conduct the proposed research effort
  • Encourage the student to attend available training offered through campus resources
  • Review all Fellowship deliverables prior to submission to AISC

Schedule and Payment

The complete details, including application deadlines for the 2023 program, will be available in early 2023. In general, applications are due in early- to mid-June, and applicants are notified by the end of July whether they were selected for the program to be completed in the fall term. AISC assumes that the student spends 10-20 hours per week over the course of the term. AISC will schedule a kickoff call and a midterm progress call with the fellowship recipient.

AISC will pay the fellowship amount of $2,500 directly to the student. Half of the payment will be made at the beginning of the project and the other half will be made after the final research report is received. The student is responsible for payment of any taxes due on this fellowship amount as required by Internal Revenue Service regulations.

AISC will cover travel and registration fees for students and faculty sponsors to attend the next NASCC: The Steel Conference after the research work is complete.

AISC Research

AISC actively funds and supports research related to structural steel design and construction. Refer to AISC’s General Research Proposal Information for information on the full research program including goals and topics of interest.

Proposal Evaluation Criteria

AISC will choose to support projects at the discretion of the Institute with the assistance of the Committee on Research (COR). Proposal characteristics that are often considered include:

  • Significance of the proposed original work
  • The potential benefit to the steel construction and design community
  • Adequacy of equipment and facilities
  • Schedule in terms of whether it is realistic
  • Probability of success

Application Information

Applications for the fall 2023 term will be due in early June 2023. Fellowship recipients will be notified in early July 2023. The following items are requested in the application:

  • Proposal for research
  • Letter of support from faculty sponsor

Applications should be emailed to with the subject line “Undergraduate Research Fellowship.”

Reference Documents

Past Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

2021 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

Augmented Reality (AR) in Steel Fabrication

Student Name: Edmund Elder
Faculty Sponsor: Hannah Blum
Institute: University of Wisconsin-Madison

This project will implement the use of AR in a steel fabrication environment through the use of the Microsoft Hololens headset in conjunction with software the research team will develop. The AR program to be developed will provide enhanced visualization of steel components and can be used to overlay dimensions and other features such as bolt holes or welds on pieces, perform QA/QC checks, and aid in fit-up of complex assemblages. Through the project, the student will be able to connect classroom concepts to real-world scenarios better and gain hands-on experience in a shop environment. The student will also collaborate with on-campus software developers to ensure the developed tools are practical to implement and straightforward to use.

The review panel believed this type of work could be of great value to fabricators by minimizing errors and possibly shortening fabrication time. Further, the reviewers felt this was a very compelling opportunity to assist in finishing a very promising project for the steel industry. In all, the reviewers were encouraged by the intended outcomes for this project and believe it has great potential to positively impact the steel fabrication industry.

Final Report

View PDF

Experimental and Analytical Evaluation of the Flexural and Axial Capacity of Steel HSS End-Plate Connections

Student Name: Edward Nelson
Faculty Sponsor: Pouria Bahmani
Institute: Milwaukee School of Engineering

This project will focus on determining the flexural and axial capacity of steel HSS end-plate connections through analytical study, finite element analysis, and experimental testing. The intent of the research is to help lead the development of innovative fastening systems and components that will enhance fabrication profitability and construction productivity while also improving structural performance. The intended outcome for the student is to be involved heavily with analytical studies and finite element simulations while also aiding in the laboratory with experimental testing. Through their involvement, they will gain valuable experience using common engineering analytical tools while also gaining practical experience in the lab environment.

The review panel thought this would be a very good and worthwhile project with results that could be of great value to the structural steel industry. They felt the provided work description was well-written and that the student had clear goals that were measurable and achievable. As a whole, this project will help advance the knowledge of the student and bring significant value to the structural steel industry.

Final Report

The Final Report for this project is pending due to some unforeseen circumstances with the undergraduate student.