Undergraduate Research Fellowships

2023 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

AISC is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Undergraduate Research Fellowships. Each recipient will receive $2,500 to conduct their respective proposed research projects during the Fall 2023 term. Below are the details of the winning projects:

Rebecca BaumanEvaluation of Electroslag Welding-Narrow Gap (ESW-NG) Joint Material Characteristics

Student Name: Rebecca Bauman
Faculty Sponsor: Machel Morrison
Institute: University of California, San Diego

This project is part of a broader AISC-sponsored research project aimed at better characterizing ESW-NG butt splice joints, which allows for faster welding (compared to traditional welding techniques) of thick joints in steel structures. Elecroslag Welding is a process with many potential applications, but one in which major data gaps exist with respect to microstructure properties, pass/fail inspection criteria, and analytical models of the resulting weldments. Thus, there is a need to learn more about the ESW process for wider adoption into steel structures.

Ms. Bauman’s work will focus primarily on the experimental aspects of the study and will include extensive hands-on data collection and specimen testing. Some of this work will include collecting temperature data during the electroslag welding process, preparation of metallurgical samples to examine microstructure in different regions of the weldment, reduced section tensile tests, and Charpy V-Notch testing. Through this project, Ms. Bauman will gain much experience with hands-on testing and interpreting collected data. It will also allow her to assemble results and present them in a technical report that will be publicly available for others who may be interested in researching or using Electroslag Welding.

Shirin FarrokhiUnderstanding the Fatigue Behavior of Wire Arc Additively Manufactured Steel

Student Name: Shirin Raschid Farrokhi
Faculty Sponsor: Ryan Sherman
Institute: Georgia Tech

This project will further explore the mechanical behavior, in particular fatigue performance, of Wire Arc Additively Manufactured (WAAM) steel - a form of 3D printing various types of steel. There are many potential applications of additively manufactured materials, and their adoption for structural steel applications is still in its infancy. Ms. Farrokhi’s project will focus specifically on the fatigue behavior of WAAM specimens made of ER80S-Ni1 filler metals, which are higher strength (80 ksi yield) weld metals typically used in bridge applications due to their high toughness at low-temperature characteristics.

For this project, Ms. Farrokhi will test specimens with varying surface finishes and interpass temperatures to help determine the impact of the as-fabricated surface finish of WAAM steel as it pertains to fatigue performance. As such, this project will expose Ms. Farrokhi to many technical aspects of WAAM steel along with laboratory-based fatigue testing methods of metals and using collected lab data to draw certain conclusions about the material. In particular, she will complete component fatigue testing of WAAM steel specimens and correlate these results to an estimated fatigue life for different fatigue detail categories through regression analysis. The project will help shed further light on the behavior of WAAM in structural steel applications while providing an undergraduate student with exposure to an emerging technology they may very likely encounter in their professional career.


Program Information

The AISC Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program provides funding to undergraduate students working under the direction of a Faculty Sponsor (or Faculty Sponsors) to research structural steel design and construction topics for one term (semester or quarter). The research conducted by the Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient can be done as a standalone project, be part of a larger research project conducted by the Faculty Sponsor or other University Faculty, and can also be tied to research AISC is funding at the student’s university or elsewhere.

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 strengthen a resume for post-graduate industry positions.

For Faculty Sponsors, the 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.

Some information on the general requirements for the program is provided below. Look out for more specific information for the upcoming 2024 Undergraduate Research Program in spring 2024.

Student Requirements

The following are basic requirements for the undergraduate student applicant:

  • Applicants must be undergraduate students enrolled at a U.S. university.
  • Applicants must 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.

Faculty Sponsor Requirements

Faculty Sponsors act as mentors and provide technical oversight to an Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipient. They are also pivotal in assisting Undergraduate Research Fellowship recipients in making the transition from classroom learning to real-world applications. The Faculty Sponsor will also encourage close interaction between a Fellowship recipient, other faculty, and other research personnel to allow the recipient exposure to research processes, methodologies, and higher levels of comprehension of complex topics. 

In consideration of the above general description, the Faculty Sponsor is expected to partake in the following activities as part of the Fellowship program:

  • Hold regular meetings with the Fellowship recipient to help guide their research activities and ensure a timely completion of the work scope.
  • Provide the resources necessary to conduct the proposed research activities.
  • Encourage the student to attend available training and other learning activities offered through campus resources.
  • Review all Fellowship deliverables prior to submission to AISC.

Activities and Deliverables for the Program

The Recipient of an AISC Undergraduate Research Fellowship shall:

  • In conjunction with their Faculty Sponsor, hold a Kickoff Virtual Meeting and Midterm Progress Virtual Meeting with AISC’s Director of Research and a small Research Oversight Committee consisting of 2-3 members of AISC’s Committee on Research.
  • Submit a Draft Final Summary Report to AISC by the end of the award period of the Fellowship.
  • Submit a Revised Final Summary Report based on comments from AISC and the Research Oversight Committee within 30 days of receipt of comments.

Schedule and Payments for the Program

Details for the 2024 program will be available in the Spring of 2024. In general, applications are due in early to mid-June of a given year, and applicants are notified by early July whether they were selected for the program to be completed in the fall term. AISC expects the Undergraduate Fellowship Recipient to commit to 10-20 hours per week of work on their research topic during the award period of the Fellowship. AISC’s Director of Research will assist the Fellowship recipient as needed in scheduling the kickoff virtual meeting and midterm progress virtual meeting (both described previously).

The Fellowship Award amount is evaluated on a yearly basis. For reference, the 2023 award amount is $2,500. AISC pays the value of the Fellowship award directly to the student recipient. Half of the payment is made upon kick-off of the project and the other half is made after the Draft Final Summary Report is received. The student is responsible for payment of any taxes due on the fellowship amount as required by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations.

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

Evaluation Criteria and Topics of Interest for Undergraduate Research Fellowship Applications

AISC along with a select subset from its Committee on Research will evaluate submitted applications for the Fellowship Program and choose two recipients. The evaluation criteria for the Undergraduate Research Fellowship program is reflected in the Application Form submitted by the applicant – refer to the Blank Application Form for 2023 Undergraduate Fellowship Program in the Reference Documents section below. These criteria can be summarized as: 

  • Benefits to the Undergraduate Applicant
    The applicant should clearly state how receiving the Fellowship will benefit them in their undergraduate studies and their potential future career aspirations

  • Industry Relevance
    The relevance of the proposed topic and potential benefit to the structural steel design and construction community

  • Clearly Stated Goals and Objectives
    The applicant should clearly state the goals and objectives of their proposed research while demonstrating an understanding of the "big picture" reasons for their proposed work

  • Research Scope
    Scope needs to be described clearly and should be adequate and achievable in the allotted timeframe to address the proposed topic

Click here for general guidance on how AISC evaluates research proposals and corresponding topics of interest for research.

Application Requirements

Note: The application period is closed for the 2023 AISC Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program. The Application Requirements described here would pertain to the 2024 Application Period and are subject to change.

Applications for the Fall 2024 term will likely be due in early-mid June 2024. Fellowship recipients will would likely be notified in early-mid July 2024. The Application consist of the following items:

  • Proposal Application Form (refer to the Blank Application Form for 2023 Undergraduate Fellowship Program in the Reference Documents below)

  • Letter of support from a Faculty Sponsor

Email all applications to with the subject line “2024 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Application Materials."

Reference Documents

AISC Research Program Information

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.

Past Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

2022 Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipients

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.

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.