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Lehigh alum earns top Australian honors in engineering

Maxwell Lay ‘64 Ph.D. has won one of the world’s top engineering honors for his accomplishments in the welding of steel structures, the design and construction of highway infrastructure, and the maintenance of heritage roads.

Lay, who earned a doctorate in civil engineering from Lehigh, recently received the Peter Nicol Russell Medal from the Institution of Engineers Australia (IEAust). He was cited as an "eminent expert in the fields of structural engineering, road and transport engineering, and information technology."

The Russell Medal, the most prestigious honor given by IEAust, was established in 1923 and named for Sir Peter Nicol Russell (1816-1905), an industrialist and philanthropist. It is awarded to a Fellow of the Institution who has made a "notable contribution to the science and/or practice of engineering in Australia."

Lay, the author of six books and more than 760 journal articles, completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Melbourne University in his native Australia before enrolling at Lehigh. Under the guidance of Professor Ted Galambos, he wrote his Ph.D. thesis on “The static load-deformation behavior of planar steel structures.” Another professor who influenced him, he says, was Alex Ostapenko, now a professor emeritus of structural engineering.

“At the time,” Lay recounted several years ago, “Fritz Lab in the department of civil engineering had a world-renowned research group working on new methods to design steel structures. It involved both theory and testing and was closely linked to the steel industry.

Lay’s many other honors include the Centenary Medal, which he was awarded in 2003 by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. In 2006 he was granted the Order of Australia for “service to engineering, particularly through leadership in the delivery of quality road infrastructure and the development of new contract management processes, and as an educator and historian.”

Read the full story in the Lehigh University News Center.

Story by Kurt Pfitzer

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