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ASU professor becomes Distinguished Member of nation's oldest engineering society

American Society of Civil Engineers recognizes Samuel Ariaratnam for significant contributions to the field


Photo of ASU Professor Samuel Ariaratnam on a yellow graphic background.

Samuel Ariaratnam is the Beavers-Ames Chair in Heavy Construction for the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University. Photo by Monica Williams/ASU

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October 11, 2022

The title of Distinguished Member is an honor reserved only for the most eminent professionals in the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE.

Being recognized requires years of service to the industry and the recommendation of peers. No more than 12 members across the country can be selected in a single year and fewer than 300 have been selected since the title was established by ASCE in 1853.

But Samuel Ariaratnam, the Beavers-Ames Chair in Heavy Construction in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, has stood out among the membership body.

According to his peers, Ariaratnam has shown outstanding leadership and made exceptional contributions to academia, research, practice and education in construction methods used for trenchless and underground construction. These contributions have led to his selection as a Distinguished Member of ASCE. He will be honored as part of the Distinguished Member class of 2022 at the national ASCE convention in Anaheim, California, on Oct. 24.

“I am honored by this recognition,” Ariaratnam says. “I look forward to continuing to serve the profession and help advance the use of underground construction methods.”

According to ASCE, a Distinguished Member “is a person who has attained eminence in some branch of engineering or in the arts and sciences related thereto, including the fields of engineering education and construction.”

“Ariaratnam has worked tirelessly to bridge research and practice through his scholarship and professional activities,” says Ram Pendyala, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “As the chair of our ABET-accredited construction engineering program, he is advancing the workforce of the future. We are absolutely delighted to see him recognized with this honor for a lifetime of dedicated service and contributions to the profession.”

Ariaratnam is recognized as the leading researcher within what is known as the “underground infrastructure management and rehabilitation research community,” where the particular focus is on trenchless engineering applications of horizontal directional drilling, pipe replacement and underground asset management.

Trenchless technology methods involve a variety of subterranean excavation tools monitored from above ground. These tools are used with novel methods for replacing deteriorated water and sewer pipes and installing new utility lines. Trenchless methods are also capable of reaching inaccessible areas, such as land underneath roadways and rivers.

It is a technique that Ariaratnam often explains by using a metaphor about open heart surgery.

“Open-cut construction, which is the traditional method for installing and repairing underground utilities, can be invasive and similar to undergoing a procedure with a large incision and long recovery time,” he says. “By contrast, using a trenchless method is similar to an angioplasty, which involves equipment such as probes and cameras with minimal surface disruptions and minimal downtime.”

He says with trenchless technology, the system is functional almost immediately after installations and repairs are made.

Ariaratnam has authored over 350 technical papers and reports, co-authored eight textbooks, is a co-holder of five patents and has given over 270 invited presentations worldwide. He served by appointment on two study committees of the U.S. National Academies. In March 2022, Ariaratnam was appointed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to serve on the Gas Pipeline Advisory Committee. He is a professional engineer in Arizona and Ontario, Canada.

In addition to this honor of becoming a Distinguished Member of ASCE, Ariaratnam has earned the John O. Bickel Award, the Arthur M. Wellington Prize, the Award of Excellence of the Pipeline Division and the Stephen D. Bechtel Pipeline Engineering Award from the society. He was also elected to the National Academy of Construction in 2019 and the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2018.

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