Research Focus: Structural Engineering

Faculty Engaged in Structural Research


Paolo Bocchini, Ph.D., University of Bologna, 2008, Assistant Professor. Research interests include computational mechanics, probabilistic structural analysis, structural reliability, resilience and sustainability of infrastructure systems, bridge network analysis, structural health monitoring by guided ultrasonic waves.


John W. Fisher, Ph.D., Lehigh, 1964, Professor Emeritus. Research interests include structural connections; fatigue behavior of welded components; fracture analysis of steel structures; and behavior and performance of steel bridges.


Dan M. Frangopol, Sc.D., University of Liège, Belgium, 1976, Professor, Fazlur Rahman Khan Endowed Chair. Research interests include safety and reliability in structural engineering; optimal design and maintenance of civil infrastructure systems; bridge engineering and management based on life-cycle cost; damage assessment and safety evaluation of existing structures; and life-cycle performance-based reliability assessment of buildings, bridges, and marine structures.


Peter Mueller, Dr. sc. techn., ETH, Zurich, 1978, Associate Professor. Research interests include behavior of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures and truss models for concrete connections.


Clay Naito, Ph.D., P.E., University of California – Berkeley, 2000, Associate Professor. Research interests include experimental and analytical evaluation of reinforced and prestressed concrete structures subjected to extreme events, including earthquakes and intentional blast demands.


Shamim N. Pakzad, Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley, 2008, P. C. Rossin Assistant Professor. Research interests include structural health monitoring; wireless sensor networks; damage detection; system identification and signal processing; probabilistic methods in civil engineering and structural reliability; random vibrations and structural dynamics; and structural monitoring of large infrastructures and bridges.


Stephen Pessiki; Ph.D., Cornell, 1990, Professor. Research interests include behavior and design of structures; nondestructive evaluation of materials and structures; fire effects on structures; earthquake engineering; innovative building systems; and thermal performance of building envelopes.


Spencer Quiel, Ph.D., P.E., Princeton University, 2009, Assistant Professor. Research interests include structural resistance to extreme loads, particularly fire and blast; design of structures to resist progressive collapse; structural robustness and resilience; and the development of improved design standards via experimental testing and computational analysis.


James M. Ricles, Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley, 1987, Bruce G. Johnston Endowed Professor. Research interests include seismic response and retrofit of steel or composite steel-concrete connections, components and systems; innovative advanced structural systems for seismic hazard mitigation; real-time hybrid testing for simulation of dynamic loading; structural applications of advanced materials; behavior of steel structures at elevated temperatures; and repair of damaged or deteriorated offshore structures.


Richard Sause, Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley, 1989, Joseph T. Stuart Professor. Research interests include application of high-performance materials; innovative structural systems; highway bridges and structures; earthquake-resistant and blast-resistant structures; and simulation of structural dynamic response.


Muhannad Suleiman, Ph.D., Iowa State University, 2002, Assistant Professor. Research interests include soil-structure interaction; foundation engineering; underground structures; ground improvement; advanced sensors and instrumentation; pervious concrete; and sustainable geotechnical and foundation systems.


John L. Wilson, Ph.D., Pittsburgh, 1972, Professor. Research interests include collaborative information systems; computer modeling of complex systems; life-cycle process models; and behavior of structural members and systems.

Integrated Framework for the Application of Probabilistic Optimization Technology (POTech) to Weapons:  Emphasis on Modeling and Simulation

Principal Investigator: Dan Frangopol
Co-Principal Investigator: Paolo Bocchini
Funded by the Pennsylvania Innovation Enterprise/Pennsylvania Innovation and Advanced Technology Association

The goal of the project is to assess and improve the reliability of weapon systems with various degrees of complexity. This is achieved by developing computational models, calibrated with experimental data, to perform probabilistic analyses and optimize the design and maintenance plan of the systems.

Development of Characterization of Failure Modes for Mechanical Components

Principal Investigator: Dan Frangopol
Funded by Progeny Systems Corp. for the Office of Naval Research

Dan Frangopol is helping Progeny Systems Corp. develop a database of submarine component failure modes. He is also participating in creating a methodology that certifies the shock-worthiness of new submarine components that have similar failure modes. Click here for more information.

Integrating SHM and Time-Variant System Performance of Naval Ship Structures for Near Real-Time Decision-Making under Uncertainty:  A Comprehensive Framework

Principal Investigator: Dan Frangopol
Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense–Navy–Arlington

The main goal of this research project is to provide a novel framework that can improve the system performance of naval ship structures. The framework consists of cost-effective management plans that integrate structural health monitoring concepts with time-variant system performance. For more information, click here.

Core Fund: Advancing Steel and Concrete Bridge Technology to Improve Infrastructure Performance, Task 8:  System Reliability in Special Steel and Concrete Bridge Systems

Principal Investigator: Dan Frangopol
Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration

This research project aims to develop a set of redundancy factors for bridge design. Considerations include the general modeling of the bridge’s structural system; its number of components; the post-failure material behavior of the bridge components; and uncertainties in loads and resistances. The goal is to produce a set of practical, redundancy-factor modifiers that can be applied to a wide range of systems with differing components and configurations. Project outcomes will help practitioners achieve a deeper understanding of the redundancy-based performance indicator for bridge systems. Click here for more information.

PITA XVI:  Reliability, Maturity, and Readiness of Complex Systems

Principal Investigator: Dan Frangopol
Funded by the Pennsylvania  Infrastructure Technology Alliance

The application of reliability concepts to structural and non-structural complex systems is the focus of this research project. Also under investigation is how the application of reliability concepts can help define system readiness and maturity. Civil, marine, aerospace, and defense systems can all potentially benefit from the results of this investigation. For more information, click here.

Spencer Quiel YouTube Video

Research Overview:
Spencer Quiel, Structural Engineering

One of CEE's newest assistant professors discusses his work within Lehigh's strong civil engineering tradition.

Progressive Collapse Resistance of Precast Concrete Frames: Design Criteria and Connection Detailing

Principal Investigator: Spencer Quiel
Co-Principal Investigator: Clay Naito
Funded by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) as part of the Daniel P. Jenny Fellowship Program

Recent structural failures around the world have spurred the need to design structures to resist "progressive collapse," i.e. a chain reaction of structural collapse that is triggered by the initial failure of only a small portion of the system. Precast concrete structures are more cost-effective than other construction methods (such as steel or cast-in-place concrete framing) because the elements are constructed offsite and rapidly assembled. However, there is currently little published research that supports the use of precast concrete framing for resisting progressive collapse.

In a joint study with Clay Naito, Quiel is developing improved design details and implementation guidelines for precast concrete structures that resist progressive collapse.

PITA XVI: Tensile Properties of Modern Steel Cables at Elevated Temperatures

Principal Investigator: Spencer Quiel
Funded by the National Science Foundation–Directorate for Engineering

Fire represents one of the most likely and potentially severe threats to the integrity of our built infrastructure. Steel cables used in bridge structures are especially susceptible to fires, due to their use and location. Fires that threaten bridges typically result from vehicle crashes and subsequent combustion of fuel or transported hazardous materials. These fires typically have a faster heating rate and higher maximum and overall heat release than typical building fires.

Quiel is currently engaged in an experimental study that addresses the need for new data on the tensile properties of cold-drawn steel cables and wire at high temperature, particularly those used in bridge applications. This externally-funded project is a collaboration between the Center for Advanced Technology for Large Scale Structures (ATLSS) at Lehigh University and Wirerope Works, Inc. of Williamsport, Pa. Additional support is provided by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (PITA) Program.

Design and Fabrication of Orthotropic Deck Details

Principal Investigator: Sougata Roy
Graduate Research Assistants: Soham Mukherjee, Ph.D. Student; Xudong Zhao, M.S. Student; Frank Artmont, Ph.D. Student

Funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Bureau of Research

Our research team is developing welded connections for bridge decks made of steel plate and stiffeners using both physical testing and computer simulations. Our goal is to produce connections that can be economically fabricated without compromising their fatigue performance in-service due to repeated loading from vehicular traffic. The connections are evaluated on a full-size, prototype bridge deck where hydraulic actuators are used to simulate moving trucks. This unique setup was designed using a large, finite-element-based computer model. The research results will be applied to a replacement movable bridge in New Jersey that is designed to survive at least 100 years without any significant maintenance. This research similarly applies to developing standard bridge decks that domestic fabricators can manufacture.

Toughness Requirements for Heat Affected Zones of Welded Structural Steels for Highway Bridges

Principal Investigator: Sougata Roy
Graduate Research Assistant: Ms. Bhavana Valeti, Ph.D. student

Funded by the American Association for State Highway and Transportation
Officials (AASHTO) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S.
Department of Transportation through the National Cooperative Highway
Research Program (NCHRP), and administered by the Transportation Research
Board under the National Research Council of The National Academies.

Our research is determining the fracture resistance, or toughness of regions in steel plates adjacent to welded joints, for safe service performance of steel bridges. Several factors such as the steel plate chemistry, the plate production process, the plate thickness and the welding processes can affect the toughness of the plate regions affected by the heat of welding (called Heat Affected Zone or HAZ). Different steel materials and welding processes commonly used for bridge fabrication are being evaluated for their HAZ resistance against fracture by laboratory testing and fracture-mechanics-based analytical simulations. The research results will lead to development of specifications that will ensure safe bridges.

PITA XVI: Efficient Fabrication of High Performance Steel (HPS) Bridge Girders using Electroslag Welding (ESW)

Principal Investigator: Sougata Roy
Graduate Research Assistant: Ms. Bhavana Valeti, Ph.D. student

Funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

Our research is investigating fully automated and environmentally friendly narrow gap electroslag welding (ESW) for efficient fabrication of bridge girders using modern, high-performance steel. This steel combines excellent strength, toughness and weldability and is preferred by the bridge engineering community. Small specimens and full-size girders are being tested to address the concern for HAZ fracture toughness of HPS due to the relatively high heat of ESW. This collaborative study among Lehigh, ArcelorMittal and High Steel Structures is promoting efficiency of domestic fabrication of steel bridges.

Core Fund: Improving Manufacturability of Rib-to-Floor Beam Connections in Orthotropic Steel Bridge Decks

Principal Investigator: Sougata Roy
Graduate Research Assistant: Ms. Katelyn Kitner, Ph.D. Student

Funded by the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation

Our research is investigating several rib-to-floor beam connections for steel orthotropic bridge decks that are easy to manufacture and can provide maintenance-free service life. Automated (robotic) fabrication processes are being developed for promoting economic domestic production of this highly efficient deck form. The performance of the candidate connections are being evaluated by computer simulation using finite element analyses and full-scale laboratory testing under simulated highway truck traffic. The research results will be incorporated as recommendations for standard connections.

Evaluation of Bolted Single Support Bar Modular Bridge Expansion Joint Systems (MBJS)

Principal Investigator:  Sougata Roy
Graduate Research Assistant: Mr. Frank Artmont, Ph.D. Student

Funded by mageba USA

Modular bridge expansion joint systems (MBJS) are increasingly being used for long-span
bridges. Our research is evaluating MBJS with bolted connections for long-life performance in service. Full-scale subassemblies of these joints were fatigue-tested in the laboratory under simulated highway truck traffic. In addition, the dynamic response characteristics of the joints under moving load are being assessed by large-scale, 3D finite element simulations where all joint components are realistically modeled. Additional simulations are underway to characterize the influence of different structural components and parameters on the system response and performance. The research results are being incorporated into AASHTO specifications for the successful implementation of these MBJS.



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