Billie F. Spencer Jr., Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, the Nathan M. and Anne M. Newmark Endowed Chair in civil engineering at Grainger College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been honored with inclusion by ASCE in its 2023 class of distinguished members for pioneering new approaches to improve the performance of structures through modeling, monitoring, control, and optimization, as well as for his unwavering commitment to education/mentoring of students and to professional service.
Spencer is a world-recognized innovator and authority in smart structures technology. In the area of structural control, he was the first to recognize the potential of “smart” dampers using magnetorheological fluids for protection of civil engineering structures. This work has spurred commercialization of MR dampers and created a new class of simple, low-cost devices for protecting structures against dynamic hazards. To have given birth to these ideas and seen them through to a mature technology and full-scale implementation is extraordinary.
His research into wireless smart sensors has enabled, for the first time, large-scale, practical structural health monitoring deployments using wireless sensors. Spencer led a trilateral collaboration between the UIUC, KAIST in Korea, and University of Tokyo to deploy sensors on the 2nd Jindo Bridge in South Korea, and it became the largest wireless sensor network for monitoring civil infrastructure. This installation was soon surpassed by a system he used on a 250-meter-tall Ferris wheel in Dubai.
Spencer served as principal investigator of the NSF’s George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) system integration project, which linked 14 laboratories of U.S. and international researchers, creating the nation’s first engineering cyberstructure framework. His groundbreaking research significantly extends the class of problems that topology optimization can address to structures subjected to stochastic dynamic excitations.
Spencer is also a superb educator. One indicator is his receipt of the 2013 ASCE Outstanding Instructor Award at the University of Illinois. Through his exceptional mentoring, he has inspired many students to pursue careers in research and education, taking positions at universities in the U.S., Taiwan, Japan, China, Korea, and Ecuador. In addition, he led such programs as the innovative Natural Hazard Mitigation initiative in Japan and the Asia-Pacific-Europe Summer School on Smart Structures Technology program.
Other awards include ASCE’s Nathan M. Newmark Medal, Housner Structural Control & Monitoring Award, and Norman Medal. In 2014 he was recognized with the J.M. Ko Medal of Advances in Structural Engineering. He is an elected Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (2021), the Japanese Academy of Engineering (2022), and the Polish Academy of Sciences (2005), has chaired numerous ASCE/SEI committees, and has received over 3,300 citations for a seminal paper he wrote for the Society’s Journal of Engineering Mechanics, a record.