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ASU geotechnical engineering expert recognized with top honor

Photo of three people in a lab. Caption: ASU geotechnical engineering expert Ed Kavazanjian (middle) earned the American Society of Civil Engineers' highest honor for his outstanding career achievements.

ASU geotechnical engineering expert Ed Kavazanjian (middle) earned the American Society of Civil Engineers' highest honor for his outstanding career achievements. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

June 15, 2018

Prominent Arizona State University geotechnical engineer Edward Kavazanjian has earned the highest honor bestowed by the American Society of Civil Engineers on its members for their outstanding career achievements.

Kavazanjian, a Regents’ Professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was recently named one of 10 ASCE Distinguished Members in 2018. Currently, there are 229 Distinguished Members among ASCE’s membership of more than 150,000 people. Only 697 civil engineers have ever been honored in the 166-year history of ASCE.

Recent ASCE Distinguished Members have included engineering firm CEOs, top researchers in their engineering fields and renowned educators who are preparing the next generation of professional civil engineers.

“It certainly is an honor — ASCE is the preeminent professional society in my chosen field,” said Kavazanjian, the Ira A. Fulton Professor of Geotechnical Engineering. “It is gratifying to be recognized for both my technical contribution and the leadership roles I have played over the 45 years I have been a member of ASCE.”

Kavazanjian is an international leader in the field of geotechnical engineering. He initially gained prominence for his work on landfill engineering and seismic design of civil infrastructure and lately has taken a lead role in development of the emerging sub-discipline of biogeotechnical engineering. Geotechnical engineers study the behavior of earth materials such as soil to assess risks and stability for construction and excavation. They also design and monitor structure foundations and earthworks.

“Dr. Kavazanjian is absolutely the world expert in his area,” said Edd Gibson, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “His leadership has placed ASU at the forefront of geotechnical engineering, seismic design and biogeotechnical engineering.”

Kavazanjian is director of the Engineering Research Center for Bio-Mediated and Bio-Inspired Geotechnics, or CBBG. The center, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on cost-effective and ecologically friendly solutions inspired by nature for developing and rehabilitating resilient and sustainable civil infrastructure systems. His role as director includes engaging young engineers in the center’s work to strengthen the pipeline of professional geotechnical engineers. His charitable donations also advance his mission of supporting students and faculty in the field.

Prior to joining the ASU faculty in 2004, Kavazanjian worked for 20 years as a geotechnical engineer in the private sector.

He has lent his expertise as co-author of guidance documents on geotechnical earthquake engineering for highways for the Federal Highway Administration and seismic design for municipal solid waste landfill facilities for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kavazanjian has served on several National Research Council study committees, including on the Assessment of the Performance of Engineered Barriers and the Opportunities for Research and Innovation in Geological and Geotechnical Engineering in the 21st Century committees, and most recently as chair of the Committee on the State of the Art and Practice for Assessment of Earthquake Induced Soil Liquefaction and its Consequences. He also served as chair of the National Research Council standing committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering for several years and on the Board of Governors of the ASCE Geo-Institute, including a term as its president.

Kavazanjian’s achievements also led to his 2013 election to the National Academy of Engineering.

As an ASCE Distinguished Member, Kavazanjian says he will likely field more requests to serve on ad hoc study committees and review panels, an activity he says he finds “to often be a satisfying and enriching experience.”

Regents’ Professor Bruce Rittmann, a colleague in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, is another ASCE Distinguished Member who was selected in 2012.

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