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Engineering Mechanics Institute Holds Inaugural Conference in Minneapolis

July 2008 Volume 33, Number 7

ASCE’s newest institute, the Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI), held its inaugural conference in Minneapolis May 18–21. EM’08 attracted 460 attendees from 34 countries and included an exhaustive technical program featuring a total of 450 presentations on a wide variety of mechanics topics.

According to its proceedings, the conference’s objective was to “provide a major forum for the exchange of information and discussion of recent developments in, and applications of, solid and fluid mechanics.” The technical sessions featured keynote lectures and presentations of papers on both completed and current research. In addition to the fluid mechanics sessions, the conference included two symposia: “Probabilistic Mechanics and Structural Reliability” and “St. Anthony Falls Laboratory 70th Anniversary.”

The symposium “Probabilistic Me-chan-ics and Structural Reliability” was held during all three days of the conference, and it focused on the latest developments in all of the areas of stochastic mechanics. It was sponsored by the EMI and by ASCE’s Structural Engineering Institute and Geo-Institute.

The symposium “St. Anthony Falls Laboratory 70th Anniversary” celebrated a milestone in the history of the facility, which is part of the University of Minnesota. Dedicated on November 17, 1938, it has become one of the leading hydraulic engineering laboratories in the world. The symposium was held on Tuesday, May 20, and those in attendance heard addresses by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland; the Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, in Sweden; Johns Hopkins University; Stanford University; and the Universität Karlsruhe, in Germany.

Keynote speakers opened each morning and afternoon segment of the conference’s technical sessions, discussing a variety of topics and calling attention to novel and promising applications of established theories and concepts. For example, several keynote speakers addressed how such traditional mechanics topics as elastodynamics, fluid flow, and fracture mechanics are now shedding light on the behavior of living tissues. Stephen C. Cowin, Ph.D., a mechanical engineering professor at the City College of New York, discussed tissue mechanics as they relate to developmental biology. Morteza Gharib, Ph.D., the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, discussed the mechanisms associated with the development of the zebra fish’s heart.

Although the biological applications of the principles and theories of engineering mechanics are indeed novel, the technical sessions also included such new developments as advances in the boundary integral equation method for the solution of a number of standard mechanics problems, including those relating to the behavior of granular materials undergoing large strains. Attention was also given to the use of nanoparticles in strengthening masonry walls against blasts and to advances that have made it easier to create materials with desired physical properties.

One of the keynote speakers, Christian Soize, Sc.D., a professor of mechanics at France’s Université Paris-Est, addressed probabilistic models in the computational sciences. According to the abstract of his presentation in the conference proceedings, Soize expatiated on “the effective construction of the probability distribution in high dimension of a vector-valued random variable using the maximum entropy principle.”

Philip L.-F. Liu, Ph.D., f.ASCE, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University, discussed new findings relating to the interactions between waves and muddy portions of the seafloor. He states in the abstract of his presentation that “if a seafloor is composed of sediments, a variety of dissipation mechanisms associated with the sediment rheology play important roles in enhancing wave damping and in modifying wave characteristics.”

Ted Belytschko, Ph.D., m.ASCE, a professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at Northwestern University, discussed how quantum mechanics can be coupled with molecular and continuum mechanics to more accurately predict the strength of such materials as crystalline carbon nanotubes and nanoscale graphene sheets that contain defects.

The final keynote speaker was James R. Rice, Ph.D., M.ASCE, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Engineering Sciences and Geophysics at Harvard University, who discussed his research on earthquake rupture dynamics. In particular, he related how the frictional elastoplastic response in damaged fault border zones affects the dynamics of earthquake rupture propagation. His address also covered localization instabilities in deformation within those zones during the passage of rupture fronts.

The EMI’s inaugural conference also included an awards ceremony, and those in attendance saw the presentation of the Nathan M. Newmark Medal to George Z. Voyiadjis, Ph.D., F.ASCE, the Boyd Professor and Bingham C. Stewart Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Louisiana State University, for his seminal research on constitutive modeling and the characterization of damage mechanisms in metals, composites, and soils and his pioneering contributions in multiscale modeling and localization problems. Also honored were Sia Nemat-Nasser, Ph.D., M.ASCE, a professor of mechanics and materials at the University of California at San Diego, who received the Theodore von Karman Medal in recognition of his numerous contributions to engineering mechanics, and Jean-Francois Allard, a professor of mechanics at the Université du Maine, in France, who was presented with the Maurice A. Biot Medal for his work in acoustics relating to soundproofing materials. The Robert H. Scanlan Medal went to Nicholas P. Jones, Ph.D., M.ASCE, the dean of Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering, in recognition of both his theoretical and practical contributions to engineering mechanics, and the Alfred M. Freudenthal Medal was presented to Ruediger Rackwitz, Dr-Ing., a professor of civil engineering at the Technische Universität München, in Germany, to signalize his work in safety and reliability studies. Finally, the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize was awarded to Andrew W. Smyth, Ph.D., M.ASCE, an associate professor of civil engineering at Columbia University, for his research achievements.

—Brett Hansen