2023 NSF BRITE Award

BRITE Pivot: Advancing Knowledge in Water – Shell Structure Interaction Through Discovery of Efficient Hydrodynamic and Structural Thin-shell Forms

This Boosting Research Ideas for Transformative and Equitable Advances in Engineering (BRITE) Pivot project will lead to scientific discoveries in water-structure interaction, that will enable innovative approaches to coastal resilience. The path to these discoveries establishes and grows a new field, “aquatectural engineering”, which is represented by an integration of three disciplines: structural engineering, coastal engineering, and architecture. The design goals of aquatectural engineering are those of coastal hazard engineering (safety, durability, and robustness), structural art (efficiency, economy, and elegance), and sustainability (low environmental impact).  At its best, aquatectural engineering equals adaptable aquatecture, which is characterized by no/low regret strategies (relatively low cost and large benefits under predicted future climates) and has co-benefits (serves more than one purpose).  The research outcomes benefit society by enabling robust designs of coastal structures while using less mass (thus more sustainable) via thin-shell forms, and designs that are potentially more elegant and less intrusive to the community and ecosystem. In the field of structural engineering, a plethora of studies have demonstrated the significant strength of thin-shell structural forms, where “shell” refers to the inherent geometric curvature, and “thin” refers to the large span-to-thickness ratio. 

The research objective is to enable aquatectural engineering and adaptable aquatecture design goals through the advancement of fundamental knowledge in water – shell structure interaction using integrative approaches: hydrodynamic analyses, finite element structural analyses, and machine learning tools. Specifically, the research will discover efficient hydrodynamic thin-shell structural forms that have broad application to coastal resilience such as seawalls, floodbarriers, floating breakwaters, coastal bridges, and coastal building facades for example. Since thin-shell structures could be susceptible to dangerous impulse (impact) forces of breaking waves, the numerical approach includes Lagrangian-based multiphase (water and air) smoothed particle hydrodynamic (SPH) models.  These complex models will be validated with experimental programs at small scale and large scale.  Machine learning methods will be used to (1) arrive at efficient structural thin-shell forms given wave characteristics and (2) develop predictive equations for the wave pressure on these forms.  Overall, the project will advance knowledge in the relationship between patterned thin-shell structural shapes/forms and (non)breaking wave forces. In addition, this research establishes a new interdisciplinary field, and demonstrates an integrative approach to find optimized coastal structure forms and predictive wave pressure equations.  

Shengzhe (Jackson) Wang wins a prestigious Graduate Student award

Shengzhe (Jackson) Wang, Ph.D. Candidate ’22, has been awarded an Honorific Fellowship, specifically the Wallace Memorial Fellowship, for the 2021-22 academic year.  Honorific Fellowships recognize outstanding performance and professional promise, and represent high commendation from the Princeton University Graduate School.

The award is based on his research on Kinetic Umbrellas.

This is a high honor for a graduate student at Princeton University and not many are given!

Congratulations Jackson for this well-deserved award!

The Structural Engineer as a HERO!

Inspired by the TED-Ed video by Matthew Winkler that describes the characteristics and journey of “heroes”, my colleague Ignacio Paya Zaforteza and I wrote a paper for Structural Engineer International [1] on the elements of the structural engineering hero that are parallel to the monomythical hero. The abstract states:

In the 19th century, the civil and the structural engineer received much public acclaim for their built works (e.g. Brooklyn Bridge, Eiffel Tower). One hundred years later, the engineer was perceived by many as “out” or as not requiring much skill.  This paper examines how this erroneous perception of structural engineering can change by presenting structural engineers as heroes.  Using parallels to the monomythical hero, and examples of engineers, the authors present the journey and characteristics of the structural engineering hero.  The journey, which has many paths, begins with the engineer leaving the comfortable “Ordinary World” of ordinary design into a “Special World”, where new forms, new materials, and/or scale for the project is needed. For underrepresented groups of people such as women and minorities, the heroic journey could be simply becoming an engineer and developing a career in conditions of equality and equity. As the structural engineering heroes enter the “Special World”, they may face trials of nature and criticism, and face constraints of economy, time, and knowledge.  In the final act of the journey, they return to the “Ordinary World” wiser, disseminate their knowledge, and inspire others.  The authors define the characteristics of the structural engineering heroes by four “P”s: they are prepared, they are planners, they have (super) powers, and they are persona grata.  The education of the structural engineer should train and inspire future engineers using the lessons learned from the heroes and their diversity. By doing so, what seems exceptional today, can become common in the future.

[1] Paya Zaforteza, I., Garlock, M.E.M. (2021). “The Structural Engineering Heroes and their Inspirational Journey”, Structural Engineering International (SEI), DOI: 10.1080/10168664.2021.1919038

Post-doc position: hydrodynamics of large-scale structures

The Creative and Resilient Urban Engineering (CRUE) research group in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Princeton University seeks a post-doctoral research associate or more senior researcher to pursue research related to hydrodynamics of large-scale structures. Individuals with skills and knowledge relevant to some of the following topics are encouraged to apply: floating structures, floating breakwaters, marine hydrodynamics, wave structure interaction, and wave energy converter systems.  Expertise in computational methods broadly defined is desired.

This is a one-year position with possible renewable depending on performance and funding.   Preferable start date is on or before September 2021. The researcher will be advised by Professor Maria Garlock of CEE in collaboration with Luc Deike of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  Queries should be directed to the former at mgarlock@princeton.edu

Interested candidates should submit an application online at https://www.princeton.edu/acad-positions/position/20601. A recent Ph.D. in a relevant field and demonstrated publications are required. Applications should include a CV, a brief statement of research experience and interests, and the contact information for three references. The review process will commence immediately and continue until the position is filled. 

Princeton University is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. This position is subject to the University’s background check policy.

Structural Engineering for a Changing Climate: The Floating City

On June 3, 12:30pm (EST), ASCE’s Virtual Structures Congress held a session titled “Structural Engineering for a Changing Climate: The Floating City”, which I moderated and presented along side some colleagues as listed below. While our profession has made great strides in quantifying forces due to gravity, wind, seismic, and fire – the floating city will require learning about new forces (e.g. hydrodynamics) and innovative materials to withstand the harsh environment.  Major impediments to innovative structural solutions are policy driven – specifically – government regulations, insurance industry policy, and lack of codes and standards.This session brought together diverse panelists to stimulate discussion with the audience.  Challenges and future research needs were identified by both panelists and audience.  The hope is that a community of scholars and practitioners can be formed to continue communications and advance the vision for the future. Presenters and themes included:

  • David Odeh (Odeh Engin., Inc.): Floating City Systems
  • Maria Garlock (Princeton Univ.): Structural Design for Ocean Waves
  • Elizabeth English (U. of Waterloo, Buoyant Foundation Project): Amphibious Construction
  • Bill Nechamen (Association of State Floodplain Managers) : Regulatory Challenges

Engineering, Beauty and a Longing for the Infinite

The article recently published in Scientific American “Engineering, Beauty, ad a Longing for the Infinite“, speaks of a quintessentially Princeton ethos : the importance of a liberal arts education (and longing for ‘beauty’) in STEM curriculum.

The piece was inspired by a PIIRS Global Seminar co-taught by Sigrid Adriaenssens, Maria Garlock, and Branko Glisic. It is written by our colleague, Margarita Mooney, whom the instructors invited to join in Italy for a six-day excursion with the students. Margarita is a Professor in Princeton Theological Seminary (this year she is a visiting scholar at Princeton University), where she defines herself as “someone whose work lies at the intersection of sociology, theology and philosophy.”

Towards the end of the article she goes into detail about what we learned on the excursion and summarizes the piece nicely with why a liberal arts education is important. A great and inspiring read!

IASS 2019 Conference Sessions Honoring David Billington

On Monday, October 7 2019, two sessions were held at the IASS Conference in Barcelona:

  • Contributions in Memory of David P. Billington I: Pedagogy
  • Contributions in Memory of David P. Billington II: Structural Art and Design

Six papers were presented in each well-attended session and these papers can be downloaded here.

The session organizers (John Abel, Maria Garlock, Sigrid Adriaenssens) wish to thank all of the contributors of these sessions – you were essential to making it a success! We also thank the audience for engaging in thoughtful discussions with each other and the presenters.

There will be another set of papers honoring David Billington, to be published in the Journal of the IASS in March 2020.  Stay tuned!



Teaching a Global Seminar in Rome (July 2019)

Professors Garlock, Glisic, and Adriaenssens taught “Two Millenia of Structural Architecture in Italy” in the summer of 2019 through Princeton’s PIIRS Global Seminar Program.

The aim of this seminar is to track and  understand the structural and architectural engineering leadership of Italy in the context of social-political-economic circumstances.

The seminar studies various structures of Italy in three distinct time frames. The first part of the course explores creativity in structural and architectural engineering during the classical and medieval period. It identifies particularities relative to the analysis of ancient structures, including construction materials, construction techniques, structural elements (column, arch, wall, and shell), and architectural forms (bridge, building, and dome). The second part of the seminar is based on vaulted reinforced concrete structures of the  1900s. The works of Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi are contrasted to those of Spanish engineer Felix Candela. The third part of the seminar brings us to modern times of lightweight structures and advanced technologies. It traces the relationship between innovative design and construction technology, and the evolution of tent structures.

New MOOC Launched in 2019: “The Art of Structural Engineering: Vaults”

This new Massively Open Online Course (MOOC), titled “The Art of Structural Engineering: Vaults,” was released on the edX platform in January 2019. The course is about “vaulted structures” also referred to as “shell structures”. These are long-span roof coverings that are very thin in comparison to their span (meaning length). Proportionally speaking, these vaults can be thinner than an egg.

This course was designed for a general audience, no engineering background is needed. It is the second of three independent online courses that examine The Art of Structural Engineering. The first one was about bridges, and the next one will be about buildings.

New CASCE Website

The website for the “Creative Art of Structural/Civil Engineering (CASCE) ” has been redesigned so that it is now simpler to find and download materials.  As the website states, it “builds upon the thesis of the late Professor David P. Billington of Princeton University, who defined “Structural Art” as structures (bridges, vaults, buildings) that seamlessly integrate efficiency, economy, and elegance.  This website (1) contains teaching resources to support instruction in CASCE to a broad audience (STEM and non-STEM), (2) makes a case for why teaching structural art and CASCE is important in higher education, and (3) describes the community of universities and colleagues who have adopted this teaching and their activities (e.g. workshops, conference sessions).”